Thursday, 6 April 2017

Brooke Bentham - Howard Assembly Room, Leeds. March 31st 2017 (LIVE REVIEW)


"...Bentham’s rich voice suddenly fills the inviting space within the Howard Assembly Rooms with ease for the elegiac opener, ‘We’ll Be Ghosts’; the first of only half a dozen songs in a short set finishing with a lo-fi version of ‘Ephemeral’..."



21-year-old Brooke Bentham is definitely someone you don’t take at face value. Her demure unassuming appearance conceals a burning inner core, perfectly illustrated in the searing lead off track from Bentham’s forthcoming EP ‘Heavy and Ephemeral’ hinting at a brief but intense relationship, most likely burning out instead of fading away; a sort of post millennial Jack and Rose from ‘Titanic’ if you like. 

Indeed ‘Ephemeral’ also marks a departure from Brooke’s previous songs, boasting a fuller band sound and a big looping keyboard riff reminiscent of the Stranglers' Dave Greenfield, with similar treatment promised for the remaining trio of EP tracks, another of which, ‘I Need Your Body’ is due out in May, with the full EP due out in June. In fact tonight’s compact and bijou merchandise store at the Howard Assembly Room boasts a clutch of specially pressed vinyl singles containing both EP lead off tracks, providing those with a turntable an opportunity to hear the next single ahead of its proper release. Alas I’m yet to readopt this much loved format so I’ll have to settle for the live performance instead. 

Hailing from the North-East and about to complete her higher education at Goldsmiths in London, Brooke started writing songs in her teens during time spent attending a theatre school, choosing to specialise in music, whilst also taking vocal coaching. Her song lyrics are penned from situations in everyday life rather than stories, each song painstakingly refined over time. The attention to detail looks to be paying off, one of her earliest compositions ‘Oliver’ a wistful tale of loss has chalked up over 1.5m listens on Spotify. 



Tonight it’s just Brooke, her guitar and voice in front of a fairly full gathering, largely here to witness main draw John Smith, himself playing a bunch of solo UK dates climaxing at Union Chapel where Bentham will also support. Despite a slight technical hitch with the sound, Bentham’s rich voice suddenly fills the inviting space within the Howard Assembly Room with ease for the elegiac opener, ‘We’ll Be Ghosts’; the first of only half a dozen songs in a short set finishing with a lo-fi version of ‘Ephemeral’, and also containing as promised beforehand, a creditable cover of Radiohead’s ‘House of Cards’. 

The real highlight in for me came with the forthcoming single ‘I Want Your Body’ a song oozing yearning from every pore, Brooke lost in her own world as she bared her volcanic soul to the warmly appreciative audience with lines like ‘I need you to make my body work’; almost worth buying the single on the way out and popping out for a turntable in the morning.  

Bentham actually confessed to preferring live performances with her new band than solo shows as she feels the songs make more sense. Following this tour the band will join her for festival dates including Great Escape and Green Man for starters. After that, Brooke is hoping to put out an album next year. Watch this space.
  
Words - Mike Price

Brooke Bentham