Climbing the sacred steps of The Bodega, for possibly the final time, set the tone for an emotionally charged and intimately open night. A rapidly growing crowd greeted Sam Airey with great delight as he graced the stage. Quickly gaining the respectful audience’s full attention Airey impressed from the outset. After a handful of well-crafted euphonious songs, Airey introduced a new song. Of course this was quickly followed by the statement “well they’re probably all new to you, but this is really new”. This sense of humour translated into Airey’s natural charisma throughout the set: “I have social media, you can follow me if you want…. But not literally, that would be incredibly boring for you, trust me”. A real highlight from the set was a song he quaintly described as a nihilist waltz; regardless of its description it was truly fantastic. Airey also impressed with a wonderful cover of Springsteen’s ‘No Surrender’.

A short twenty minute intermission blessed the crowd with a much needed blast of air conditioning – a necessity to deal with the excess heat from a show that had been sold out for months. A show so full, that people had squashed in the space behind the wall in the centre of the venue. Any view these gig goers had been denied was quickly made up for with a truly magical show. From the very first note Benjamin Francis Leftwich captivated the room into a stunned silence. Leftwich himself appeared amazed by the reaction: silent and attentive during each song, raucous in appreciation between each one. This was a special crowd for a mesmerising musical experience. Nervously explaining that this was his fourth show in four years, Leftwich seemed to realise that this was going to be a memorable night for everyone in the room. He seamlessly flowed between as yet unheard tracks and the unforgettable wonder captured on Last Smoke Before the Snow Storm.

“A gentle reminder of how powerful music can be”

‘Butterfly Culture’ heard the gentle mumbles of numerous crowd members too scared to commit to fully singing along, but unable to keep themselves from partaking in the experience. This continued until the end of the main set, when Benjamin Francis Leftwich explained that it would create an amazing atmosphere if anyone that knew the harmonies could sing along. This lead to everyone in the room enjoying a spiritual catharsis singing every word to ‘Atlas Hands’. The magical sensation of everyone quietly sharing this atmosphere gave Bodega an almost meditative quality. There are very few artists that can create moments as special as this; those that had managed to get hold of tickets were truly blessed. A gentle reminder of how powerful music can be.

The show was defined by its sincere intimacy, despite the sizeable crowd. Leftwich closed the main set with a slight variation of the traditional musician encore. Humbly stating: “I am going to play you one more song, if after that you still want me to play one more, please let me know before I get off the stage because after that I’ll be in my own little world”. Of course the crowd erupted, demanding ‘Atlas Hands’; thank goodness they did. Shortly after the show Leftwich joined the crowd and stayed until he had spent time speaking to every member of the audience. Conversations that were defined not by a fangirl/boy speaking to an uninterested musician, but by multiple people genuinely interested in what one another had to say. Leftwich might well be the kindest man in music; for this he is rewarded with shows like this one. Everything about this night was wonderfully refreshing. A rare example of the perfect musical experience.

Liam Fleming

Image: Chuff Media

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