Upstairs at The Lexington in Islington, there is a little venue. It’s small and dark with slightly too much blue light on stage, but the sound is excellent and the atmosphere is good. It felt quite strange to be watching Dylan LeBlanc somewhere so low-key. We’ve read so much about him, billed as ‘the next Neil Young’, as this incredible singer-songwriter who was signed to Rough Trade as soon as he was legal, as someone who’s played Glastonbury and has stolen show after show. Not that he’s not low-key; he really is. He’s slightly bumbling, apologetic and self-conscience, yet simultaneously self-aware.
An interesting, if slightly nerve-racking, performer, you can feel sure of his ability to deliver musically and vocally on every song, but not sure of what’s about to spring out of his mouth in between. At one point he’s baring his soul, at another he’s begging us all to buy his new album because he’s broke and ‘mama needs new shoes’. He talks openly about his need to ask people if they thought each song was OK, despite the obviously enamoured audience; he could probably have silently moonied on stage for an hour and been met with rapturous applause.
He opened his set with Cast The Same Old Shadow, the eponymous track of his forthcoming album, due for release in mid-August. Whilst his better known tracks from 2010 album Paupers Field were generally better received by fans, his newer material revealed an exciting step forward in his songwriting, particularly lyrically. I really don’t think he’s going to need to plead with anybody to buy his new album; it promises to be even more beautiful than the last. New track and single Part One: The End was a highlight, as was older song Low. He sang a beautiful, high-pitched cover of Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay, and surprised everyone by playing a wonderful version of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together.
He’s mesmerising and moving to watch, often funny and sometimes uncomfortable in his honesty to rooms full of strangers. He seems stunned by his own success and people’s increasing warmth towards him, smiling in astonishment at a crowd of LeBlanc lovers, branding them ‘far too kind’ and ‘so sweet’ for applauding his lovely songs, emotionally delivered.
I felt lucky to have seen him up so close in such an intimate setting, so much so that I stole his setlist to commemorate the evening. Yes, like a teeny groupie.