Leeds Arena saw two sold out shows by artists at different ends of the spectrum in February when Green Day and Drake came to Leeds in the space of a week. However, both may have been usurped by a gig that took place at a smaller venue just up the road by a singer/songwriter who the NME once described as “having the longevity of a goldfish’s memory”.
Green Day certainly have longevity. The American punk rock band formed in 1986 by lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt. For much of the group’s career, the band has been a trio with drummer Tré Cool, and all three were on top in Leeds. It takes an enormous amount of courage to open your show with the classic Bohemian Rhapsody. The whole show could go downhill from there for some. Fortunately, though Green Day just soared for the two-hour set which left the crowd gasping and vociferously demanding two encores in one of which Green Day played their most triumphant record to date American Idiot. Made in 2004 American Idiot marked a career comeback for Green Day following a period of decreased success: Moreover, in the political landscape of today’s America it is a record that has never more been needed. Here is a band, formed 30 years ago, whose songs don’t age, whose members don’t get tired, whose fan base continues to grow and who appear to be more relevant now than ever.
A few days later it was the turn of Aubrey Drake Graham known simply as Drake, the Canadian rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor Drake initially gained recognition as an actor on the teen drama television series Degrassi: The Next Generation in the early 2000s. Intent on pursuing a career as a rapper, he departed the series in 2007 following the release of his debut mixtape, Room for Improvement. 13,000 shuffled into the arena and they felt that were witnessing something special: Perhaps they were. Despite the space age set Drake largely spent all his set alone on stage and he has unquestionably a knack when it comes to showmanship. However, content wise it appeared that there was a sameness in both song and delivery and at times the whole thing seemed to lack energy and sincerity. But, telling Leeds was the best place he’d ever played no doubt comforted the hordes who had turned up on a cold February night to see him.
Yet the best time of the month was to be had at Leeds University where Kate Nash had the five hundred packed into Stylus in the palm of her hand. When she last played Leeds almost four years ago, it was, to be polite, a little underwhelming. A fact that she confirmed during the informative chat between songs. She was as she admitted “in a dark place”, a little vulnerable and lacking confidence maybe. However, this was not only a return to form but for Kate no small redemption. She was truly memorable and for those who originally wrote her off in terms of longevity should have been in Leeds to see the whole of the crowd enchanted by Kate sing along word perfect to the tracks from Made of Bricks which was made ten years ago, when some of her followers were in nappies. A completely memorable performance capped by the most chaotic rendition of Mariella as an encore with around fifty plucked from the audience became her backing band.
And a few words for Kate’s support Gothic Tropic who introduced some hard edges to the playful world of indie-pop. The brainchild of Cecilia Della Peruti, Gothic Tropic kept the vibe effervescent and punchy, with a unique lead guitar style that recalls catchy elements of 70s, while nodding to an era of rock nobility. After working in the studio song writing, producing, and performing with artists and producers including Ryan Adams, and Buddy Ross (Frank Ocean), Cecilia Della Peruti cut her teeth as an international touring player for Børns, Charli XCX, That Poppy, Night Terrors of 1927, and more. Cecilia Della Peruti’s fearless improvisational DIY pursuit of guitar has given her the freedom to source within, and play per her own rules.