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LEAF HOUND, Borderline, London 4 November 2011

Photos by Noel Buckley

Leaf Hound, photo by Noel Buckley

To play a classic album in its entirety is now such an established concert routine that it is in danger of becoming a cliché. But even though this incarnation of Leaf Hound have toured for seven years and released the excellent Unleashed album, their debut album Growers of Mushroom became such a cult that a copy went for £2000 on eBay a few years back.

Combine that with the fact that 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the album's release (by which time the original band had already split up), and there can be few more appropriate cases for the classic album treatment.

As many of their infrequent shows seem to be in North London pubs it was also good to see the band play one of Central London's most prestigious venues (even if the red curtain behind the stage and red and purple lighting are more suited to Spearmint Rhino than a rock club!) That also meant for a healthy sized crowd, and I sensed that singer and sole original member Pete French was both genuinely touched by the turnout and putting his full heart and soul into his performance as a result.

Leaf Hound, photo by Noel Buckley

Alongside the Zeppelin meets Sabbath riffs of 'Freelance Fiend', 'Drowned My Life in Fear' and 'Stagnant Pool', all of which are established live favourites, the real treat of this show was hearing songs rarely, if ever, played in concert before and in particular the two 'epics', 'Work My Body', with several changes of tempo and an almost jazz-like musical extemporisation, and 'With a Minute to Go'.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Pete's voice seems somehow ageless, and it was also interesting to hear some of the stories behind the songs.

Leaf Hound, photo by Noel Buckley

His (relatively) youthful band work brilliantly together and the songs give them scope to stretch out and improvise in a way which is all too rarely seen these days.

While staying reasonably true to the originals, their subtle reworkings actually enhance them, notably 'Sad Road to the Sea' where the three of them built an ever faster tempo and Ed Pearson produced some virtuoso bass work before jamming against guitarist Luke Rayner, whose playing was as rich and soulful as ever.

Leaf Hound, photo by Noel Buckley

And on the cult title track - which Pete confessed was not based on experience - Jimmy Rowland's urgent and aggressive drumming was central in giving the song its atmospheric sound.

Leaf Hound's more current work got a look-in during the encores, 'Too Many Rock n Roll Times' with its Crossroads riff providing a more straight ahead contrast, and Atomic Rooster's 'Breakthrough' reworked from organ-dominated to a guitar heavy sound with an epic feel.

The word 'classic' is overused, but this show did full justice to the legacy Leaf Hound created with their master work.

Review by Andy Nathan

Photos by Noel Buckley

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