LIVE: Jamie Lenman / Haggard Cat @ Moth Club, London

By Ashwin Bhandari

When it comes to British DIY figureheads, nothing and no one compares to the aura that Jamie Lenman has. It’s fitting that his most recent tour finishes in London’s dreamy Moth Club – a venue where the ceiling is decorated in shimmering gold glitter whilst the stage retains the vibe of a seminal 80s dance hall.

For casual fans and hardcore Reuben fans alike, this intimate experience feels as if it’ll be a night to remember. Following the release of his quirky covers album ‘Shuffle’ this summer, Lenman has so many different ways to dazzle us this evening with his wide musical palette.

But first off, we’re treated to half an hour of cathartic noise rock, courtesy of ex-Heck members Haggard Cat. Whilst the two-piece group are less destructive on stage than Heck, front man Matt Reynolds and drummer Tom Marsh are still a true force of nature as they churn out blistering post-hardcore riffs and heavy-handed drum fills. The energy in the room is mostly lukewarm, but the sheer amount of people here to witness their theatrics is admirable. Reynolds takes full advantage of this, finishing ‘American Graffiti’ by crowdsurfing to the very back of the room and onto a ledge, with his guitar surprisingly still intact.

Arriving on stage to gracious applause from his adoring fans, Lenman opens with his version of ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ by The Beatles. If the original is a seminal sonic adventure, Lenman’s cover, by comparison, is more like a cocaine fuelled rollercoaster, especially with the addition of the racing synth loops.

Armed with a few pedals and a war-torn Yamaha guitar, it is blissful to witness Lenman pull off such a big sound with a minimalist set up. Shifting from Reuben classics like ‘Lights Out’ to a funky bass guitar rendition of Cindi Lauper’s ‘She Bop’, the set choice is as emotional as it is playful. At one point, his vocals are drowned out by the audience as the end of ‘All Of England Is A City’ is belted out as loud as humanly possible. In that very moment, memories of early 2000s memories from our youth flash and are brought back to life again.

As well as Lenman being a prolifically solid songwriter, he is thoroughly charming, taking the time to deliver greater context to his songs and constantly assessing the vibe of the room. You feel as if you’re conversing with a long lost schoolmate down the pub as opposed to being at a gig. As he changes over to the acoustic part of the set, he deals with an obnoxious audience member by politely sending him to the back;“I don’t want you getting crushed during the heavy songs mate.” It can be easy for musicians to lose their temper when an audience member causes trouble, however, Lenman deals with the situation through politeness and brevity.

After a delightful selection of soulful acoustic numbers, the pit opens up as Lenman delivers ‘Coda’, a song released by punk outfit Caretaker. Opting for oppressive synths rather than heavy guitar riff overtones, the cut is an unexpected but thoroughly welcomed addition to the evening. Ending on Reuben’s festive hit ‘Christmas Is Awesome’, Matt Reynolds bounds onstage to join in the carnage, reminding us that this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.

For Jamie Lenman, 2019 might have been a victorious year, but tonight was one of the strongest performances of his entire career.