The Leisure Society

The Leisure Society


Tonight the Deaf Institute is not the thermal pressure cooker that has become its trademark during its reign as the crown jewel of Manchester’s small music venues. It is more gently packed, still busy, but comfortable. The Leisure Society are repeat visitors themselves, and like so many before them, they spare a word for the great place midway through their set. Also noteworthy is an uncommon propensity of grey hairs speckling the room – it speaks to the classic songwriting and unashamedly warm demeanour of the band that they attract a slightly more mature crowd.

They are a touring six-piece, fronted by songwriter and guitarist Nick Hemming, and flanked by keyboardist and founder member Christian Hardy, who ably provides a consistent flow of spontaneous crowd interactions between songs – albeit, as he admits early on, assisted by a newfound “mind-altering” rum concoction that accounts for the extra sparkle in their performance tonight. A characteristically charming opener, ‘You’ll Never Know When It Breaks’, may have raised suspicions that this will be a somewhat gentle, sedate affair, but these are soon put to rest with a boisterous, rousing version of ‘Nothing Like This’, a standout from their new album The Fine Art of Hanging On, and the song they christen their “summer anthem” for this, the best Manchester weather they say they have seen. The harmony offered by violinist Mike Sidell and flautist Helen Whitaker alone is enough to set them apart from your standard indie fare.

The new songs are generally well received; ‘Tall Black Cabins’, which Hemming explains was inspired by a visit to the Hastings Shipwreck Museum, not helping their already suspect rock’n’roll credentials, and ‘Outside In’ stand out in particular. For an album inspired to some extent by the tragic loss of a friend of the band, the songs are defiantly energetic. For the most part however, it is the old familiars that carry the day, once more with the livelier tracks resonating more than the slower. A one-two punch of ‘Dust on the Dancefloor’ and the brilliant ‘Save It for Someone Who Cares’ present the set with its natural highpoint. In contrast, a beautifully dreamy rendition of ‘The Last of the Melting Snow’ is quiet enough for a small group of incomprehensibly belligerent idiots to drown out the band for a section of the crowd. That notwithstanding, the old-timer folksiness of ‘Forever We Shall Wait’ closes out the main set with verve.

On their return, the band explore a heavier, freakier side with a muscular version of ‘Wide Eyed at Villains’, even invoking the whirling, heady rock of The War on Drugs, before returning to triumphant home turf to close out the encore with debut album highlight ‘A Matter of Time’. It is only after the stage lights are out however that this night’s highlight finally arrives: having speculated on not having enough time to close out their set list, they take matters into their own hands, decamping from the stage and into the crowd for an impromptu acoustic version of the comedic fan favourite, ‘Pancake Day’. Quite apart from the impressive synchronised rotation of six band members as one, the band ensure that the night finishes with giddy smiles all around. The smiles had been there all night, mind.

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Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.