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Review: Adult Jazz, Leeds Belgrave Music Hall

© Roosa Päivänsalo

When watching live music, the listener, and often the artist, will slip into a kind of routine, and you can begin to predict the structure before you walk through the door. 

Leeds-based indie outfit Adult Jazz, on the first date of their tour after the release of debut album “Gist Is”, moved to put that right. With the help of friends, Harry Burgess and co cast a bit of madness over the Leeds Belgrave Music Hall, which welcomed in the audience with the promise of warm neon and rugs on the walls.

Opening the night were fellow Leeds-dwellers Jasper House, who gave a short demonstration of fascinating riffs, composed harmonies and an eye for a good song. Lead singer Sam Pycroft has the power to drag people’s ears to the centre of the track, but even without this the band’s flirtation with 7/8 rhythms and psychedelic soundworlds make them another potentially exciting ensemble.

“Electronics gave a multi-layered backing to an hour of catchy insanity.”

In 25 minutes it was over, and it was around this time that the audience turned expectantly to the marimba in the middle of the room – as well they might. Emerging from gaps in the crowd were the next group, the brilliantly titled G Bop Orchestra. An unexpected combination – trombone, marimba and drumkit – , G Bop Orchestra’s set veered between music and theatre, with an emphasis on avant garde improvisation.

© Roosa Päivänsalo
© Roosa Päivänsalo

The tension created by certain interludes – including a section where all three players shook pots full of miscellaneous materials until they were close to breaking point – threatened to spill over into nervous laughter, but always kept the audience transfixed. The fully realised potential of the group came when they played together, however. Despite the obvious effect the experiments had on a dumbfounded audience, the points where conventional material began to reveal itself were what seemed to define them. Breaking from almost every gig tradition, G Bop Orchestra flew the flag for crossing boundaries, getting closer to the crowd and generally building the excitement for a tumultuous finale.

With a fake hand gripped to the mic stand and rugs positioned all over the stage, the Adult Jazz set was never going to be free of incident. After releasing an acclaimed debut album that covered such a diverse range of sounds, the question was always going to be whether they could recreate that ingenuity live. As the opening drone of “Hum” floated over the heads of an eager audience, a sigh of relief and anticipation took hold. Lead singer Burgess’ vocal, a finely sculpted, unpredictable being, took charge and led the way throughout.

Trombones blasted, drummers and guitarists swapped with rigid regularity and electronics gave a multi-layered backing to an hour of catchy insanity. Burgess showed glimmers of madness, with cheeky grins to the audience and wild gesticulations during standout hit “Springful”While he was a vision of comfort onstage, the rest of the band often stole furtive glances to the audience, almost willing people to enjoy it.

© Roosa Päivänsalo
© Roosa Päivänsalo

They needn’t have worried. Audience favourites “Donne Tongue” and “Am Gone” were met with celebration, whilst 9 minute epic “Spook” seemed to take people from hysteria through silent wonder, then all the way back again. The introduction of a new song, as of yet untitled, gave everyone one more thing to shout about. Adult Jazz certainly were up for a bellow or two, with the new song showcasing Burgess’ rather more earsplitting talents.

The set ended as abruptly as it had started, with an unabashed Burgess announcing his disdain for the musical tradition of encores. It’s difficult to imagine this night of extravagance, experimentation and brilliant pandemonium ending any other way.