Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s RNLI Session

Benjamin Francis Leftwich

It couldn’t have been more perfect – an exclusive, free secret show in Aberystwyth for an artist I currently can’t get enough of. I knew about the RNLI before but right then they became my favourite charity organisation. I sent off my email and waited for a text letting me know that I’d got a ticket. And I waited. And waited. I knew that booking the evening off in anticipation had been too optimistic. Then, the day before the show, it arrived.

“CONGRATULATIONS Hannah!!” it read. “You are one of the lucky few to win a ticket to the Aberystwyth RNLI Session.” I was ecstatic and grinned like an idiot for at least ten minutes.

Benjamin Francis Leftwich is steadily increasing in popularity. His debut album Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm reached number 35 in the UK album charts. He’s been championed by the likes of Zane Lowe and two of his tracks feature on the current series of Grey’s Anatomy. If that doesn’t convince you then you’re just going to have to trust me: he’s going to be big.

I’ve never been to a secret gig before. Nor have I actually been to a gig on my own. So getting onto a coach outside the Art Centre, not knowing where I was going to end up was pretty exciting. The most amusing part was hearing the groans of some of those on the bus who had just scaled the hill, only to be driven back down it to town again.

I’ve gotta say, I could have probably been more on the ball when trying to guess where we were going. My money was on the Bandstand, but as we drove straight past it, all guesses went out of the window. It all fell in to place though, when we reached the end of the promenade and found ourselves outside the Lifeboat Station. But of course.

Things got under way pretty quickly once everyone (less than forty of us) had filed in. The support act, Last Breath, were a good start to the evening. They claimed to usually be a typical rockband, but had reverted to acoustic for the session. Based on their performance I’d say it’s something they should consider more often. They played a mixture of their own material and a couple of covers. Hearing a rockband playing an acoustic version of Jason Derulo’s In My Head is never something you expect, but it was almost like a Radio 1 Live Lounge session. Impressive stuff. Throughout their set I was getting a bit of a Nickleback feeling from them, which strangely enough turned out to be the final cover they played. Having a sing-a-long to How You Remind Me seemed to reduce the shyness of the audience too, which I think everyone appreciated.

Soon enough Benjamin took to the stage. He’s exactly what you’d imagine him to be from his music. Softly spoken and thoroughly captivating. He spoke to the audience quite a lot, but gave a sense of someone who’s usually fairly reserved. We were treated to a number of tracks from his album – starting with 1904 and playing others such as Pictures and Box of Stones. A highlight for me was hearing Stole You Away, one of my favourites from his album, which he admitted he doesn’t play live very often. There’s something about his music that makes it seem like you’re being allowed to see something very personal – all of his songs seem so heartfelt and the way he performs them is like he’s really putting all of himself into it.

Although his album is acoustic, some of the tracks feature piano and other band elements to them on the record itself. As it was just Ben on the stage it was fascinating to see how he played them on his own, and still made them sound full and varied. He’s an incredibly talented guitarist.  I somehow ended up standing front and centre, but in a venue so small it didn’t really matter where you were stood. Either way I’m pretty sure I was looking up at him, thoroughly in-awed and wide-eyed throughout his whole performance. He finished the set with Atlas Hands, another of my favourite tracks and the perfect ending to the show.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a strange evening (especially when we got free Reload tickets as we left), but the best evenings are often the most unusual ones. Especially in Aberystwyth.