There’s no doubt the kids packing out the Wardrobe are here to see Lewis Watson, the acoustic guitar wonder of Youtube acclaim. His boy-next-door charm and delicate way with a hooky chorus has earned him a loyal following. They are out in force tonight in Leeds.
The opening performance is one of the more engaging warm-up acts I’ve seen this year. Jordan Mackampa held the audience in the palm of his hand with his lovelorn croon and amazing hat.
Lewis abruptly appears on stage with his band, no grand reveal, and immediately begins the show. I was surprised at the extent of his touring band: percussion, keyboards and guitar all covered. However the new material on offer here, due to be released on album two next year, requires a more rounded set-up. Of the new songs ‘Hello Hello’ is the strongest, a cathartic ballad that recalls the chilled tempo of Half Moon Run.
These newer songs suggest a new, more musically intricate style, but the moments the crowd really relish are when the singer stands alone with his guitar. They know every lyric, and this produces the highlight of the night, a mass sing-along to the lovely ‘Into the Wild’.
Lewis doesn’t so much command the stage as invite you up there with him. Figuratively of course, this isn’t ‘Anarchy in the UK’, but his disarming demeanour gives the show a feeling of intimacy, particularly when it’s just us lot and him. This is particularly felt when a guitar fails and gets bundled off by a harried looking tech. As a result, ‘Halo’ is performed completely a cappella, and it shows real showmanship from Watson.
Acoustic guitar music isn’t for everyone and songs about teen love and starry nights isn’t for the jaded. However the young audience here are clearly invigorated by this music, and that in itself is special. Lewis Watson is a real performer, and though he made his mark through Youtube, he ditches the gimmicky BS that many bloggers are guilty of in favour of good song writing.
His music is exactly what young people ought to be hearing and seeing performed live. His stories are vivid, and have a world-weariness to them that makes them feel real, lived in. What a treat.