Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts - Wharf Chambers, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts - Wharf Chambers, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating:10 Release Date:

Jeffrey Lewis has been around for some time now, releasing an abundance of cult albums since his ‘official’ debut LP, The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane. Comic book artist, lo-fi troubadour, antifolk punk and free-wheelin’ hippie; Lewis remains a performer with enough originality to easily sidestep any of these labels.

Lewis really comes into his own live; a charismatic performer who knows how to entertain and wouldn’t have the first idea about how to ‘call in’ a show. I’ve been lucky enough to see Lewis play on numerous occasions and from album-to-album, tour-to-tour, Jeff hasn’t disappointed the lo-fi indie faithful.

The evening gets off to a strong start with the aid of the ever eccentric The Wharf Street Galaxy Band. A musically limber Yorkshire four-piece, the WSGB have a sound that feeds on its juxtapositions and the somewhat unusual lyrical approach of lead singer Dave Proctor. One song manages the unlikely trick of sounding a little like Half Man Half Biscuit playing a Birthday Party song but with lyrics about striking Puffins and disappointed tourists. 

It’s an engaging and undeniably entertaining set that comes to an explosive final with an impressively angry song about arguing over parking spaces. I find myself grinning like an idiot as they repeatedly and joyously scream into my ears, “I will fight you to the death!”

Downdime has been around since the mid-noughties yet have been worryingly quiet in recent years. I say ‘worryingly’ as this is a band that clearly belongs on stage. Tonight the band deliver a set of irresistibly energetic, lovelorn fuzz-pop with Dinosaur Jnr and nineties alt-rock running through its throbbing veins. The speakers on the side of the stage wobble as lead singer and guitarist Ged jumps around and throws his all into every song, occasionally stopping to ask “is it loud enough for you?” It’s a passionate and enthusiastic set of propulsive jangle that reaches for the stars with every sweaty pop hook and fuzz-laden note.  

Dressed in his usual cap and t-shirt and armed with a heavily stickered electro-acoustic, Jeffrey Lewis remains every bit the unassuming outsider. His latest album, Manhattan, was recorded with his current band Los Bolts, whose shifting line-up is currently represented by Mem Pahl and Brent Cole on guitar and drums respectively. Opening with the melancholic acoustic strum of ‘To Be Objectified’ Lewis is relaxed and natural from the start, playing a varied set that confidently strolls through his musical back pages.

I often worry that I’ll not remember enough of a gig to do an adequate review or that my scribblings will make little sense the next morning. Thankfully, there’s always plenty to remember from a Jeffrey Lewis show. ‘Broken, Broken, Broken Heart’ remains an irresistible, hook-laden hoe-down while the likes of ‘The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane’ display Lewis’ knack for a darkly funny, stream-of-consciousness style ramble. The latter is given its traditional reply in the form of garage punk shout-along, ‘No LSD Tonight’ (where Lewis explains to a number of fans how genuine the first songs sentiments really were). Each song is filled with Lewis’ trademark warmth, humour and lyrical ingenuity.

Los Bolts are great and compliment Lewis’ older material as well as some prime cuts from the latest LP. The drifting, Lou Reed-via-Woody Allen swoon of ‘Manhattan’ works a treat with both Pahl and Cole adding sympathetic harmonica’s alongside their usual contributions. Tonight’s louder songs punctuate the sets more melancholic moments perfectly with Lewis squeezing an impressive amount of noise and distortion from his electro-acoustic on the likes of ‘Have a Baby’ as the band chant, “that stuffs important to me!”

If you’ve seen Lewis before than you’ll know to expect more than just the amazing songs. We’re only a few songs in when he recites his Yiddish reinterpretation of Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ (entitled ‘The Pigeon’) and the famous sketch pad makes an appearance for a chapter in his ongoing history of Russia.

All this and there’s still time for an antifolk rendition of Crass classic ‘Punk is Dead’, a song about the pleasures of English food and a rap about mosquitos. Oh, and the encore consists of Lewis reciting a poem he’s written about the internet recited to the tune of ‘Heroin’ by The Velvet Underground. Only Lewis could make this stuff work so well.

Stood on the bench at the back of the room it’s a pleasing site to see Wharf Chambers packed to the rafters with sweaty, smiling and satisfied fans. Make sure you catch him when the tour rolls into your town and remember why you loved live music so much in the first place. 

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Didn't Lou Reed interpret The Raven as well with his yoga instructor ? Sounds like a great gig !

There are no comments posted here yet
Related Articles