LIVE: Black Foxxes @ The Key Club, Leeds

By Tom Walsh

The intimate surroundings of Leeds’ Key Club seem a world away from the frozen, expansive landscape of the Icelandic countryside but they are about to be brought together. Wandering through the Nordic wilderness provided the inspiration for Black Foxxes’ front man Mark Holley to begin penning the forthcoming album ‘Reiði’.

Transferring the grandiose themes that can be conjured from the geography of this rugged island to the dive bars of northern England, could be seen as a daunting task but it is one that Black Foxxes take in their stride. The Exeter trio crash into their set with all the power of a gale blowing in off the North Atlantic Sea.

Opener ‘Breathe’ is Black Foxxes’ siren song, luring in an audience to embark on an adventure around these choppy waters. Balancing the loud/quiet dynamic with a gusto that the Pixies would hang their hat on, it comes to a chaotic conclusion with Holley (resplendent in a Hawaiian shirt) echoing the words “I wanna set myself free”, over and over again.

It’s a bold marker for the evening and provides an indication of what we are to expect from a live rendition of tracks from ‘Reiði’. However, before then it’s time to dip into 2016’s ‘I’m Not Well’ to dig out the raucous ‘Maple Summer’ which drips in raw angst before taking a brief moment to be lulled into the album’s title track.

Black Foxxes’ refrain from the intensity of their loud/quiet dynamic to transport us to those nomadic Icelandic roads. ‘Sæla’ is an ode to youth as Holley paints the picture of open highways of the snow-covered Scandinavian nation. While it is arguably the poppiest offering the trio have for us the evening, it bubbles with a sense of loss threatening to come out from beneath the surface.

Despite the quaint surroundings, both material from Reiði’ and ‘I’m Not Well’ sound as if they could fill arenas in years to come. In creating these grandiose songs, Black Foxxes still maintain a captivating and intimate live show where you can hear a pin drop between every breath and every note. There is so much depth to their songs with ‘Oh, It Had to Be You’ the heartbreaking ballad and ‘JOY’ the thrashing, ranting punk number.

Conversation is kept to a minimum before Holley takes a moment towards the end of the set to surprisingly concede that the performance had been a “little scratchy”. His omission is met with a little confusion from those in attendance who respond with supportive cheers while a lone voice from the back confirms that this has, in fact, been quite good.

Feeling vindication, Holley bids the audience farewell with the anthemic ‘Husk’. It caps a performance that has brought us from the wilderness of the Arctic Circle to the sodden streets of Yorkshire and back again.