The music of British singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich is equal parts somber and uplifting, a combination that would easily find its way into the compilation albums of The OC or House. But although he impressed with the expansive soundscapes he created within his two albums (especially sophomore album After the Rain), Leftwich treated listeners at U Street Music Hall to a spartan setup that hearkens back to his beginnings - with just him and a guitar on stage.
Leftwich is a gifted performer, but reserved in-between his songs. Before launching into a song, he timidly quipped, “I love DC. I like the scenery here...and the wild animals”, and professed his love for TV shows Prison Break and Cougar Town before launching into another song. But once he launches into his music, he performs with intense passion at his guitar, often with eyes closed and at the stage’s edge. He performed two songs away from the microphone, hammering away at his guitar as his unique, breathy vocals reached the other side of the crowd unaided by any amplifiers. Near the end of his set, he made his way into the middle of the crowd to play another song where fans sang along with him. And the crowd was very quiet throughout - so much so that Leftwich (like many other artists before him) suggested, “You guys are either very quiet...or very high.” Either way, he gave high praise to DC’s attentiveness versus Philadelphia’s and Boston’s crowds.
Those hoping for the sounds that worked alongside Leftwich’s guitar on After the Rain instead received a stripped-down version at his show. Some may have seen this as a negative, but it also helped prove how he got to this point in the first place. His unique, breathy vocals and willingness to remove any barriers between the stage and the audience says it all. Along with opener Brolly (who has a forthcoming album in spring 2017), the pair gave formidable solo performances that will singer-songwriter fans should get to know if they haven’t already.