Leaders of Men at Whelan’s, Dublin, 18th July 2014
Search for Leaders of Men on Wikipedia and you’ll find yourself reading about a single from a Canadian “rock band” (GoldenPlec does not advocate use of the N-word) rather than the Dublin indie five-piece.
For a band that have been active since 2011, gracing the cover of Hot Press in their first year, establishing themselves in the Irish live scene and recently releasing the first single from their debut EP Alexander House, you might wonder- why don’t they have their own article in the internet’s most credible source of information? To answer this trivial question, and more relevant ones about their talent and success, we went along to the second of Leaders of Men’s three-date summer residency upstairs in Whelan’s.
First support act of the night are Armagh natives Silences. They come across as nervous, when really they have no reason to be. Their set is quite refined, with their better songs sounding like The Thrills, only more tender. Next up are RudyTriXx, with a fresh offering of indie-pop. Though their name is tough to catch, their confident lead singer forces the spelling home, in between bright songs with a Two Door Cinema Club feel.
The headline act then take to the stage, kicking off their ten-song set with In Case The World Forgets Me. As an opening song, it’s a bit too much of a slow burner, but still lays down Leaders of Men’s signature indie rock sound.
For a band still lacking a full-length release, their music sounds remarkably developed and consistent. Their tone remains dark throughout the set, but never negative. The guitars sound distant during lulls, but come crashing in for choruses, still never dominating. Drums steadily fill out the back of their sound, with the bass threaded neatly below.
The real driving force behind the band’s sound is frontman Brian Ashe’s powerful vocal. His voice is aged with a natural rasp any vocalist would kill for, but also comes in delicate measures when the lyric dictates. At Ease is a standout song, coming in the middle of the set, that really lays all the bands talents bare, these vocals in particular.
Recent single For Want Of A Better Word also impresses, having a slightly lighter mood than other numbers, but still as much width of sound. Final track Happy Here is gentle and pensive but builds up to unleash a torrent of energy in the closing minute, an element that up until now we hadn’t realised was regretfully absent.
And with that stirring finale, we start to see that what was on offer tonight was more of a showcase than a headline gig. There was a detachment to the night which could be explained, but not excused, by the turnout, which was understandably low on this the hottest day of the year so far. While any truly great band will feed off of the crowd’s energy, they should be just as capable rocking a room of 50-odd.
So why aren’t Leaders of Men more celebrated? It seems they’re a band that have bided their time, allowing their musical style to develop at a natural rate. But now that their sound is fully-formed, they need to capitalise on the attention they have received, and unquestionably deserved. With a debut album under their belt, and a bit of an industry push, they would surely be able to fill bigger venues and hopefully offer bigger performances.