Having written an article about Ed Sheeran way-back-when, I’d stumbled across Leddra Chapman as both one of his co-writers and co-performers. A number of months have since passed and occasionally her name has lit up on my musical radar, so when I saw she was playing at The Louisiana in Bristol, I thought it worth taking a semi-informed gamble to find out what she was all about.
Having never been to The Louisiana before, it also gave me the opportunity to check out the iconic venue I’d driven past perhaps a thousand times before, without ever actually venturing inside. Once there, walking up the stairs and finding the ‘gig’ room seemed very much like a funnelling experience; the large, open-plan bar downstairs seemed to grow increasingly restricted along the path of ever tighter staircases and corridors, which deposited the music fans into a closely packed area on the first floor.
Shuffling politely sideways into the midst of the action from the crammed doorway, I was one of many who looked like a pint-clutching crab, each scuttling horizontally through the crowd to find a place at which to rest comfortably. Like an elevated version of The Croft’s main room, though a touch more refined (which does not necessarily make it superior), the intimate, bustling area thankfully housed its own bar and some form of air conditioning, without which I suspect the uncharacteristically warm March evening may have finished a few of the audience off early.
The first act on stage, Ruth Royall, had a very easy, ‘swing’ sound, delivered with her band mates who gave great instrumental performances. As enjoyable as it was though, the lasting impact was pretty short-lived, though the closing round of applause was strong and appreciative.
More impacting was the second support, Lewis Watson, a young, acoustic-guitar clutching singer/songwriter who grasped the focus of the room with his understated, near-vulnerable, performance. Calm hammer-ons and pull-offs within his chords gave an engaging texture to his rhythm, whilst his vocals and lyrics, seemingly cut from a very Ed Sheeran-esque cloth, were certainly enjoyable, if not truly original. The crowd seemed to raise their investment, getting on board with the fresh-faced performer and his involving songs, which deftly coupled a deep intent with a relatable quirkiness.
With her support acts having wrapped their sets, Leddra Chapman bounced onto the stage full of energy, her smile beaming through her long, blonde hair. Proving herself to be an instantly charming headliner, she introduced herself with a casual, “Alright Bristol?!” which cracked the room up in laughter, though none more so than Leddra herself, still beaming.
Joined on stage by Kit Rice and his violin, they started crafting their music together with a strong start, his strings adding a further sense of drama and soaring scale to their mix, reminiscent of a Damien Rice production.
In between string-accompanied tracks, Leddra would play her acoustic guitar solo, strumming easygoing, accessible songs that quickly became infectious. Her seductive smile and enthusiastic nature made for a great stage presence that drew the rooms involvement deeper, in addition to the music’s appeal alone.
With a vocal range that swept between dramatic high pitches to, at times, an almost ‘spoken delivery’, variety was definitely present. Add this to strummed chords and picked sections that would give way to contrasting, palm-muted breakdowns and the performance had a lot to keep you on your toes as a punter.
Announcing she was about to play ‘Wine Glass’, the ripple of recognition was welcomed by Leddra, who was pleased that people had heard her debut album, which she referred to as, “her baby”. ‘Shiver’ was also very listenable, amongst a very listenable set, though pretty tragic in its sentiment. Conveying a range of emotion over the evening quite brilliantly, her animated performances felt authentic and fresh, her investment in her lyrics still very strong.
Consciously lifting the mood after dips into the darker side of her songbook, ’Get Out’ and ‘Getting on It’ were both good fun, complete with an unexpected few lines of LMFAO crow-barred in for good measure! Leddra’s enjoyment for performance was reflected in the crowd as they sung back at her, before laughing at the odd ‘punch-line lyric’ dotted throughout her songs, which she delivered with a big smile.
Not the final cover within her set, Leddra took a dip into a more urban scene with her performance of Jamie T’s ‘Sheila’. Thankfully, the near-rap experiment was in no way painful to watch, instead demonstrating her versatility further, whilst remaining in good jest with the crowd.
With tonight apparently a much bigger audience than her previous visit to Bristol, I suspect her next visit to have grown in size by equal measure at the least; the crowd were definitely rooting for her and it can’t be long till the word spreads further. By the time she reached her performance of ‘Summer Song’, an increasingly noticeable echo rang round the room as people hummed, whispered and sung their appreciation of her ‘final’ tune.
Not quite content to leave it at that, the next logical step was for an encore that, naturally, included a Nicki Minaj rap and the splitting of the room down the middle for a shout-out, ‘call and response’ section. This proved typically quirky and indeed, typically enjoyable.
Knowing very little about Leddra Chapman pre-gig, I left her Bristol set knowing that she can apply her easy-listening guitar and impressive vocals to songs of varying magnitude, genre and emotion, more often than not with an infectious smile on her face. Whilst not really breaking into any new musical territory, this still makes for good tunes and a fun gig; I suggest you watch this space!