Mike Atkinson

The Leisure Society – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Thursday May 5

Posted in gigs, Nottingham Post, Rescue Rooms by Mike A on May 9, 2011

Musically literate, traditionally tuneful, unmistakeably English, with deft arrangements that encompass woodwind and strings: in some ways, you could argue that The Leisure Society represents a continuation of The Divine Comedy’s ethos. It’s a somewhat shoddy comparison, though. On the plus side, the newer band displayed none of the whimsical smugness that sometimes afflicted the older band. On the other hand, a more charismatic, interpretive front man might have heightened the impact of some of the material.

The seven players divided loosely into two camps. On the right, sporting floppy fringes and crisp white shirts, were the Burton-on-Trent contingent, including the core creative team of singer Nick Hemming and keyboardist Christian Hardy. On the left, clad in more sombre hues, we had the Brighton-based (and allegedly posher) mini-orchestra: violin, cello, and a prominently melodious flute.

A Rescue Rooms veteran, but from the other side of the stage, Nick’s nerves weren’t helped by the presence of his parents and his aunt, right at the front of the crowd. “I’m not going to explain what this song’s about”, he blushed, introducing a number called We Were Wasted. (“This one’s for you, mum!”) However, it would be hard to associate this bunch with much in the way of rock and roll excess, especially after Christian’s tale of an earlier encounter in the toilets with an alarmingly persistent substance abuser. (“He ruined my day! He’s not here now, is he?”)

Having earned an Ivor Novello nomination for their hauntingly lovely debut single (The Last Of The Melting Snow), The Leisure Society have just released a second album, Into The Murky Water. With admirable contrariness, the songs with the trickiest time signatures – the episodic The Phantom Life and the rollicking You Could Keep Me Talking – have been earmarked as the first two singles. The hour long set divided evenly between old and new material, with the band’s sole cover – a spirited romp through Paul Simon’s Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard – saved for the encore.

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