There was little holding back the fans of Utah four-piece The Backseat Lovers last night in Leeds. As soon as the doors opened, the queue that had patiently waited in the cold night night air, ran for the barriers to get the best spot. Stylus was almost at its 1,000 capacity by the time the excellent support band Junodream took to the stage.
The dream-rockers from London enjoyed the atmosphere of the packed out venue, and by the time they closed out the set with “The Oranges”, they’d left the crowd revelling to an enviable groove that set things up nicely for the headline act.
In between, “Bohemian Rhapsody” wafts out of the PA speakers , to the delight of all assembled and a sing-along in complete unison ensued, including many attempts to sing out Brian May’s iconic guitar solo.
By the time the house lights dropped again just after 9pm, there was a palpable buzz – the last few fans having squeezed into the back of the room ready for action.
Talking to some of the fans before the show, it seems The Backseat Lovers have been a mostly well kept secret in the UK, despite this being a tour in support of their second album, “Waiting to Spill” which dropped last autumn.
The record itself delivers a folk-rock sound, with Thom Yorke and Radiohead influences, and was produced by David Greenbaum which has brought a touch of Beck to the recorded sound.
Live though, there’s a greater urgency about them – with a Kings of Leon vibe, albeit with a more chilled edge to it. The band: Josh Harmon (vocals/guitar), Jonas Swanson (guitar), Juice Welsh (drums) and KJ Ward (bass), emerge from the shadows stage right and the noise in the room swells.
There’s no sign of a set list on stage, and this reflects the rest of the tour, where the running order has changed each night. They’re a band that likes to keep that freshness every show, something they learned and developed after supporting Jack White earlier in their career.
It works for them. Not only from the point of view of their performance, but also because the crowd don’t necessarily know which of their favourite tunes is coming next.
The sound of each song is impressively produced. Lush guitars are the highlight, with a real clarity to each instrument wherever you’re situated in the room. It’s rich and indulgent, and keeps the assembled fans satisfied throughout the balanced set.
For those on the floor, they’re enveloped in the richness of the sound, and bathed in golden light as they ebb and flow in circles in what looks like very friendly mosh pits.
The newer material is strong and well received. “Know Your Name” in particular rises in intensity as it progresses to a relentlessly rhythmic outro, followed by a sudden atmospheric cut to black.
The band themselves are big fans of Leeds it seems, recalling their earlier shows in the city on previous tours, where chants of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” were mistaken for “You’re shit, You’re shit!”, leaving the Americans wondering for a second what they’d done wrong!
This story was immediately followed by a fresh rendition of the famous northern chant and having attended many gigs in the county, I’m surprised it took this long to raise its head!
The culmination of the main set is “Maple Syrup” rapturously received from the first chords, and ending up with a guitar solo reminiscent of Justin Hawkins of The Darkness, elaborately resonating off the walls and feeling almost like a jam session by the end.
It leaves the crowd asking for “One More Song!” – and without leaving the stage, Josh takes the spotlight with a solo version of “Snowbank Blues”, the crowd in the palm of his hand.
- Leeds the fifth of seven sold out UK tour dates, with Bristol and London still to go on 15th and 16th March.
Words and Photos (Apart from band in the park shot): Huw Williams