Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fruit Punch

In a week that started badly for those of us that value artists and performers who exemplify difference, experimentation and innovation, I needed confirmation that, despite the fall of its brightest star, music can still produce mavericks who go against the grain of dull, formulaic and accepted trends. On Tuesday night, at a sold out Teen Creeps promoted gig in Brighton, I got exactly that.

Kiran Leonard is a 20-year-old musician from Saddleworth and his performance to a packed audience in the room upstairs at the Price Albert was like a sock on the jaw. Currently on a tour of modest venues ahead of the release in March of his new album, Grapefruit, Leonard and his three-piece band sound like everything and nothing you have ever heard before: one moment there is tender ambience, the next splenetic bursts of prog-punk; another moment there is virtuoso guitar playing, the next vocals of howled anguish. And on opening song, Pink Fruit, all of this is present in one magnificent 16-minute magnum opus.

Not all songs are sprawling epics, however. Oakland Highball, he tells us, is short with fast lyrics so he explains what the song is about. His explanation is longer than the song, which is delivered at breakneck speed. It is a wonder that the band manage to keep up with Leonard at times as he writhes and spirals around his left-handed guitar, leading the irregular time signatures and disjointed rhythms. Indeed, the stage is set as a duelling ground with Leonard stage left, side-on to the audience, facing the band who are stage right looking back at him.

If Kiran Leonard is a wunderkind, he is an unassuming one. Before he took the stage, I saw him slip into the room in his parka and rucksack and move through the audience unnoticed. And from the stage he praises support band, Let's Eat Grandma. He hails the Norwich duo as the "best band in the world"and cheerfully admits to enjoying being upstaged by support acts. The young pair are similarly unafraid to sit outside of convention but, on last night's showing, it would be hard for anyone to upstage the originality and energy of Kiran Leonard.

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