Near the top of Bold Street, as you amble uphill toward the Bombed Out Church; beyond the spot where less intrepid travellers pause, is a place of rest and recuperation; a place of beauty, chocolate, amazing brews and the finest music in the City of Liverpool.
Formerly a 1920’s tea room, a cinema in the 60’s and most recently Microzine clothes shop, LEAF on Bold Street stands in a beautiful art deco building.
It is fortunate to have maintained above its main tea emporium a triple-height acoustically beautiful performance space, filled with miniature disco balls, twinkling light, that art deco detailing and a couple of great big hulking AC units.
It is a beautiful room, if you ignore the scaffolding holding it up and the wobbles in the floor. Tonight Leaf hosts a very rare performance of Sea Legs.
It is a project that needs little introduction to readers of The Thin Air but one that is met with perhaps a little trepidation among the gathered masses. And gathered they have, in a standing room only huddle they wait.
The support act for this evenings delectation is Little Rivers, the artist formerly known as Callum Cairns, a talented native of Belfast and Tea Shop dweller.
Tonight he sits behind a piano and works up some magic, humour and a shed load of sensitivity to warm things up. There is only so much tea can do to be fair.
Callum is a surprising proposition, the last time I saw him it was with a guitar, the time before that in Belfast I remember it a lot louder than this.
Melodic, sweet, serious and intense, Callum builds just enough pressure in the room to ensure the coffee machine is given a run for its money in the interval.
You’d nearly think he was on commission.
Ciaran Lavery is about to set off on 12 date tour of the UK, his first headline tour playing the kind of rooms you know he won’t be able to book next time around.
For the first night of this jaunt, he is joined by a barely visible behind all the tech Ryan Vail. A man you always imagined might be better suited and look more comfortable with a cello in his hands.
The two are dressed smartly, polite to the point of apologetic, introspective and respectful of those who have come out in such numbers.
They apologise in advance for the tears, the tension that is bound to follow and for the hours spent in deep thought trying to work out where the nearest beach is…
Sea Legs is simply beautiful. I was lucky to have first heard it back in January, I remember a feeling of wonderment wash over me, feeling wildly homesick.
I was desperate to get back to Donegal, back to my beach, the one I’m not telling you about between Falcarragh and Dunfanaghy…
It’s that kind of record, it immerses you in a different world, it has an otherness to it that is almost indescribable.
Live, Sea Legs manages to be a different thing altogether, it brings a different layer, another dimension, new sounds, tweaks on the originals and a near-spiritual awakening on hearing the words spoke aloud.
Its almost like you’re at some southern state bible meeting if it were to take place on Horn Head somewhere, with the wind sweeping across the hills.
Something this diverse, this different from the norm is a brave thing to do in a new city but Ciaran and Ryan carry it off in style, the room is still throughout, you can tell the bar staff are being extra gentle, you can see punters trying desperately not to move their seats for fear of scraping the floor and interrupting the flow.
For me, the standout track is Shipping Forcast, ironic in so far as Girls Names, another Belfast band in town for one night only, are at the very same moment launching their European Tour around the corner in a bar of the same name. And here, at Leaf, least one half of the band and most of the gear on stage arrived by boat in the wee small hours.
It is an astounding achievement to take two completely different artists and create something as coherent as Sea Legs.
If you’re far away from home, plug into it and dream of those walks along the coast of Donegal, or Antrim, or Kerry, or wherever, if you’re lucky enough to be near that coast take this record on a long walk and enjoy.