In this slowly warming season (yes unbelievably its summer) where there is an influx of US artists and every live event seems to end with the word “Stadium” it is overwhelmingly refreshing to discover music at its absolute source. Drum roll please for “Hero & Leander” at the Wenlock & Essex in Islington.
Now before we start let’s get the admin out of the way. The Wenlock & Essex is not a venue I’ve visited for live music before. However, acoustically it was fantastic and the fact it had a 70’s retro lit dance floor was simply a bonus. Admin over.
And so to my first experience of Hero & Leander. Here’s a group who by all accounts are extremely hard working. The debut album “Tumble” was released in May and the group appear to be working hard to promote this. A number of gigs at this venue and others around London as well as some quite remarkable self-made video’s gave me an immediate respect for the band. At one stage during the performance we were told that the video for “No Scrubs” (a very clever version of the TCL hit) was made in a friend’s kitchen and bathroom.
The quality of the set was high. Both Emily Sills and Gary Cansell offer very strong vocals and there is an obvious “togetherness” amongst the band. Sills vocals in particular are quite angelic at times and no more so than on the very impressive “Kiss Me by the Water Cooler” (a cleverly written homage to office romance).
The surprise of the evening for me was “Tickle”. A song that left me undecided on the album but quite outstanding performed live.
While Hero & Leander have a more edgy sound people will obviously make comparisons to The Beautiful South. I did. The band shouldn’t take this as an insult. Just take one look at the track listing on any of their latter day complications and you’ll see why Mr Heaton and company were so popular for almost 15 years.
Hero & Leander’s final performance of the evening was the quite brilliant “Collider”. For me this was the highlight … brilliantly performed and evidence that these guys are very good songwriters. It’s a very, very good live track and I thoroughly recommend you seeing them for this alone.
If I were to criticize one thing it would be the conversation points between each song. Yes, it’s great to know what each song is about and what it’s called but there were a couple of points where the talking went in no particular direction and actually slowed down the performance a little too much for me.
One final point. These guys perform for free. In an environment where there is less cash around than a few years ago and the cost of gigs still seems to be rising, how refreshing is it to see a group perform to such a high standard simply to see the smiles on people’s faces.