Thursday November 26th, the Union Chapel in Islington. This venue has recently become incredibly popular housing the likes of Billy Bragg and GoGo Penguin, but tonight The Album Leaf takes to the stage for his first London show in years with the support of Lyla Foy and Micah P. Hinson. Even before the music has started the atmosphere is mesmeric; the texture of the air is filled with the scent of strong coffee, peppermint tea and the pitter-patter of enthusiastic footsteps scuttling to grab a hot drink and take a pew to enjoy the evening’s music.
The night is opened by Lyla Foy, a London based artist who, for tonight, is without the backing of her full band. Lyla herself was amiable and maintained the gentle atmosphere with evocative renditions of her material stylistically echoing the tragic, but resolute, optimism that Jeff Buckley was famed for: a simple, tender, bare bones performance to whet our appetite for what’s to come.
Lyla is followed by Micah P. Hinson (an Americana artist from Memphis, Tennessee) who takes the mood in a slightly different direction, albeit one that still firmly manages to keep the attention of the audience. After a few pessimistic and humorous words are mumbled into his microphone Micah strums the crowd through a string of songs. His powerful mixture of relatable stories poetically performed and a voice akin to the raw energies of Eddie Vedder and Bob Dylan create a consistently entertaining experience throughout the duration of his thirty-five minute set.
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Then comes the main event. The lights descend and there is a gentle flutter of bass and pad sounds whilst the band take to the stage, opening with their emotive instrumental ‘The Light’. This track grasps the audience and sets a precedent for the remainder of the evening. The combination of hypnotic visuals and elegant resonance of the Union Chapel provides a placid glow of textures and timbres, which neatly bring together the many intricate layers The Album Leaf’s music has to offer.
Looking retrospectively the night was full of moving moments as each track flourished and smoothly decayed into the century old walls. The Album Leaf’s most recent release ‘New Soul’ made its London debut effortlessly blending in with the rest of the set but still managing to keep it fresh and interesting. A peak of the evening came from the introductory pad throbs of ‘Window’, which gently trembled the chapel windows before ascending into the haunting glissando violin melody. The audience captivated at its beautiful simplicity entrancing us to its spacious finale.
The undeniable highlight of the evening was at the end of the set with ‘The Outer Banks’. Upon the climax the Union Chapel’s stained glass window – purposefully muted for the whole evening – lights up, basking the audience in a mosaic of coloured light. The track ends with chords played out on a church organ; an incredibly fitting moment. As the organ pushes its last breaths through the venue the above stained glass window gradually fades into darkness closing what was, simply put, a strikingly enigmatic evening of music.
Jimmy LaValle has a busy year ahead of him with a new studio album, ‘New Waves’ due out in 2016 – his first studio album in six years. If the gig at the Union Chapel is anything to go by then seeing The Album Leaf should definitely be on your Christmas list.