Leprous, The Ocean, Port Noir – Manchester Academy 2
Date: 9th November 2019
Leprous bring their Pitfalls album to stunning life in one of only two UK shows. Naturally, we were there, at the barrier, for five guys and a cello.
Opinion has been divided. Some have heralded Pitfalls as Leprous’ significant achievement of progression in delivering the (extremely) unexpected while some have unfairly and short labelled it as Einar Solberg singing over some electronics. The latter is grossly unfair and short-sighted as aside from everything else, Pitfalls is the gift that keeps on giving. A personal encounter over a number of weeks has seen an initial bafflement grow into a real appreciation and finally, I think I’ve settled on my favourite track (or two). Perhaps some like an easy life. Like much of the best music, you need to work at it.
In any case, this was one of the most anticipated gigs of the year. Perhaps the wait for Leprous invoked a feeling of impatience after a battering from two support bands with Port Noir and The Ocean’s sets being tolerated rather than appreciated in anticipation of the headliners.
It was a balance tipped significantly in favour of the heavy side. Port Noir’s QOTSA/RATM blend of rock and hip-hop, playing music from The New Routine, offered something unexpected from members of the Inside Out stable who haven’t followed the traditional progressive rock route by any stretch of the imagination. After The Ocean’s more challenging dense noise fest, the Leprous craft, their subtlety, their dynamics and their intensity was extraordinary to watch and hear.
Confident enough to open with two new songs. Confident enough to allow Einar Solberg to roam away from behind his usual keyboard position to focus on delivering his highly personal lyrics. Confident enough for the band to pick up different instruments to bring the new songs to life. There was a real commitment and conviction to the new material.
Unafraid to tweak the set, several of the older numbers that have punctuated the bulk of Pitfalls songs on the London setlist were switched around, so Manchester was treated to The Valley, Slave, Salt and Illuminate rather than The Cloak, Third Law and Foe from London. Supplemented as usual by their light show that revolves around smoke, shadows, silhouettes and punishing strobe effects, Salt had the crowd singing the refrain before Einar started and there was palpable excitement as Tor Oddmund broke out the mighty seven-string axe for Slave.
Including Raphael Weinroth-Browne again on cello made a significant impact, the cello finale in At The Bottom particularly thrilling and chilling and to see a band line up to rock out with a string instrument and its master shaking his mane of hair was an inspiring sight. Not something you see every day.
Don’t be surprised to see rock fans raving about Leprous live or to see Pitfalls featuring in the end of year lists. A band who aren’t afraid to go where their muse takes them and whose confidence in facing and channelling adversity is earning them a deserved respect.
Photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s work on the At The Barrier Facebook page.