If there is one thing you can say about the British it’s that they love their sporting analogies. Listen to a conversation between two or more for a while and you’ll hear endless mentions of ‘fair play’, ‘playing with a straight bat’ or ‘knocking one out of the park’.
The one that came to my mind after seeing Luke Leighfield at Yuyintang on Christmas Day was undoubtedly ‘it’s a game of two halves’.
With his show split by a 20-minute break, those who stayed for the second half were treated to a much more up-tempo set … not to mention the highlight of the night which was when he sheepishly asked the crowd if he could take a picture with them for his parents back home. “It’s my first Christmas not in England,” he explained.
Sadly the first half was something that even the most hardened shoe-gazer would have had trouble swaying through.
Hailing from middle England but now a music student in Southampton, the 20-year-old singer-songwriter usually performs with a backing band of up 13 artists but he looked a lonely figure with only his Roland keyboard to keep him company on the stage as part of his solo tour of China.
“It was just too expensive for us all to travel,” he explained after the gig. “Hopefully I’ll be back here in 2009 with my band, we’ll play some rock ‘n’ roll.”
Luckily, his natural charm and confidence in the spotlight keep the focus on him as he plugs away with his inoffensive catalogue of songs about English summers, heartbreak and teenage angst. He was never going to have a venue famous for high-energy punk shows jumping, but there was definitely a bit of knee-swaying going on at the front of the crowd.
He even had a new festive if slightly downbeat tune for the occasion – I’m So Confused By Christmas – which contains the classic Scrooge-like line “My sense of hope usually takes a kicking at this time of year”..
Pushed into playing the piano, he says by “loving parents”, at the age of four, Luke is a natural musician and is also capable of banging out a good tune on the violin and guitar. He has been going solo since 2005 after experimenting with several band projects throughout his teens as well as toured with British folk star Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape Wear Cape Fly.
But although technically brilliant, much of his playing in the first half of his show lacked any kind of energy bar the up-tempo ‘rock’ song from his second album, ‘Fan the Flames’. Disappointing considering he’s an artist who has toured extensively in the UK and Europe, as well as been rewarded with a recording session for the BBC’s famous Radio One.
Where his real strength lies, however, is in his lyrics. I’m not sure the Chinese crowd totally understood his English humor (although he seemed to raise a laugh every time he announced a love song, hand on heart, with a sad groan) or his references to drab English summers, but he certainly knows how to tell a story.
And with like all good sportsmen, he can only get better with age – and I for one will be back for another round in 2009 if he will.
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