Leeds, Leeds, Leeds…..so much to answer for. Although never quite enjoying the same status of some other Northern UK musical powerhouses, it has a history of producing artists who sit somewhere between the mainstream and the wilfully obscure – from Age of Chance, Soft Cell, Scritti Politti and Chumbawamba through Cud, Sisters Of Mercy and The Wedding Present to Alt-J, ¡Forward, Russia! and Yard Act. Whether by accident, design or osmosis, English Teacher owe much to that lineage. That audience sweet spot between the two extremes seems to be doing them just fine though, as Whelan’s is bursting at the seams on a short Irish tour.

As with their This Could Be Texas debut, there’s a lot going on here. Instruments are swapped on a regular basis (not an easy task on a stage crammed with gear) and the four piece are joined by an extra cello / keyboard player. In many ways, it’s a show of three acts. ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’ setting the scene, they follow it with arguably the album’s three weakest moments – the times when the songwriting doesn’t quite match the musical ambition. Here though they make much more sense, particularly ‘I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying’ with its hardcore bass runs and 90s
slacker rock guitar riffs.

The elegant ‘Albatross’ ushers in a more reflective sound and when Lily Fontaine moves to the piano at the back of the stage for love song ‘Sideboob’ the night takes a turn. She’s replaced by drummer Douglas Frost and suddenly English Teacher are a torch song band, Fontaine revealed as a great soul voice hidden in an indie guitar group – especially on ‘Blister My Paint’. Frost returns to his kit halfway through the album title track and we’re suddenly deep in prog whig out territory, proof that you can take the band out of Leeds but….

From then on it’s pure celebration, the world of hype, playlists, buzz bands and algorithms replaced by one of community and human interaction. Fontaine says it’s not only their favourite show of the tour but one of the best nights of her life and the emotions seems totally genuine. She finally ventures to the front of the stage – and on top of the crowd at one point – on versions of ‘Nearly Daffodils’ and ‘R&B’ that more than match previous tour mates Sprints in punk intensity, cementing their position as your favourite underground heroes of the year and igniting an atmosphere that has been smouldering all night.

Then they close with a version of ‘Albert Road’ so heart wrenching that a mass connection doesn’t seem that preposterous. A cover of LCD Soundsystem’s ‘New York I Love You’ and a giddy version of early single ‘Good Grief’ wrap things up and they’re gone. English Teacher. Weird enough for the weirdos, assured enough for the mainstream, ready for the world.