This Boy Least Likely To article was written by Jen Taylor, a Gigsoup Contibutor. Edited by Stephen Butchard.
With three years since their last album, along with a hiatus of live shows, it is not surprising that when The Boy Least Likely To announced they were going to do a show, it sold out. Additionally, the promise of an intimate acoustic show was bound to spark interest among fans.
The Betsey Trotwood is a fantastically quirky venue. Fighting your way past the bar to the back of the main room, you find a sign on the wall providing you with two choices: upstairs – folk, downstairs – indie/pop. Another sign points downstairs with the words ‘The Boy Least likely To’ boldly standing out. After descending the staircase, you emerge into an underground room, essentially a very small bunker; the ceilings are low, and brick arches line the walls.
This was the backdrop for the iconic event that saw people packing in to see The Boy Least Likely To play again. The night was perfectly suited to the quirky band from the outset, with quaint badges being given out instead of stamps for entry.
For those of us who had been fans of the band when they were around 14 years younger than our current selves, it was a strange feeling being back here again, retracing songs that embody a naïve childishness. Yet they didn’t feel outdated. With the band playing a cross-section of all their albums, the set was almost like readdressing the struggles of growing up. It was a throwback to days of old – a memory that youthfulness and fun is still inside us all, even as we learn to deal with adulthood; singing about our friends turning into ‘Monsters’ seems to reflect becoming adults when we’re not ready to ourselves.
There was a real connection between singer Jof Owen and instrumentalist Pete Hobbs, which can be expected after years of pouring their souls into music together. But beyond that, there was also a real connection between the band members and the audience, definitely aided by the intimacy of the venue. Between songs (and sometimes even during), everyone was in fits of laughter. Hysterics hit every person in the crowd at some point, along with the occasional happy tear. Owen and Hobbs are absolute kings of banter, and the fact that they weren’t taking themselves too seriously added to the memorability of the night.
Hobbs carried the music very well on his own, playing acoustic guitar with a real depth that made it sound like so much more. He also pulled out the harmonica in a couple of songs, including a fun rendition of the wonderfully silly ‘Warm Panda Cola’.
Despite the very light-hearted feel, there were some more serious moments, like the song ‘Michael Collins’, written about the loneliness of the Apollo 11 astronaut, which Owen sang in a genuine and meaningful way.
The question we were all asking ourselves right from the announcement of the show was how they would manage the classic hit ‘Be Gentle With Me’ without a full band, and most importantly, the glockenspiel. The answer was: expertly. Hobbs managed to embody the whole feeling of the song into his acoustic guitar, and it sounded perfect. The audience joined in of course, helping out by happily singing along .
The duo went offstage for a moment as the crowd cheered, and of course they came back, first with ‘My Tiger My Heart’, the beautiful ballad that made the audience a little wistful and melancholic. But it wasn’t long before the laughter returned, as the güiro was pulled out and the hilarious ‘I’m Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon To Your Star’ left the room feeling happy again, even despite our cheeks being a little sore from all the laughing.