Artist: Leeroy Stagger & Band
Venue: The Square Tower
Date: 31st May 2106
Not only was this my 2nd visit to this historic venue, it was my 2nd visit in a month!!
Again this was a sold out gig and again my ticket was courtesy of someone else dropping out! What was even more impressive about the gig being sold out was that it was on a Tuesday night, the day after a Bank Holiday, a night most people are not bothered about going out on!
Arriving at the venue I was surprised to be shown upstairs. Ken Brown (the promoter) explained to me that this was to be an up close & personal gig! I was impressed last time when there was a maximum capacity of 100. Up the stairs I went & as I was going to make notes, I chose a back row seat, that would be in the 4th row then!! Upstairs holds a maximum of 40 people! I saw several familiar faces from when I was here at the beginning of the month.
The ‘stage’ was set up with 3 chairs, a small drum kit, keyboard and a veritable array of guitars!
Ken came to the front and without the aid of a microphone introduced Leeroy. I immediately thought this is gonna be good if Ken doesn’t need a microphone – not to insinuate Ken has a big booming voice, I just thought the sound was going to be awesome & I was not wrong!!
Leeroy walked on with 3 other guys. “I Want It All” started the proceedings – not the queen version I hasten to add! For the next song, Leeroy put on a Harmonica holder round his neck. Now, I admire anyone who can play an instrument, but playing the violin or the harmonica gets my greatest respect and to play the harmonica and the guitar at the same time just amazes me & I think it always will, it is the adult version of being able to rub your tummy & pat your head at the same time!! I love the sound of a harmonica, it does take you back to the old cowboy films!
After “Love Vs Hate”, Leeroy said he loved being in Portsmouth, it reminded him of home, Victoria in British Columbia, Canada as it was by the sea, rainy & expensive!!
For the next song, “Enemy Inside”, the drummer, Bram Park, switched from drums to the mandolin! This mandolin was quite amusing as it travelled up and down between Bram and Ryland Moranz (more about him later!) who were opposite ends of the stage a couple of times. As I say, it wasn’t a big stage so it was quite tricky passing this mandolin up and down between the guys!
Leeroy then announced the next track, “Crooked Old World” & said that tonight they were playing some new music that is going to be on the next CD that is to be released early next year. After this the harmonica came off & Leeroy told us a little bit about himself in that he has a 3 year old & a 3 month old back home. It must be tough leaving his boys when they are so young. However, he said he rang home from the top of the Tower and he mentioned a flag on top of the Tower which had caught my attention on the walk in, a Jolly Roger. Apparently his 3 year old is pirate mad & for his dad to be ringing him from Portsmouth & telling him there were pirates ahoy because he could see the flag, I am just glad for the 7 hour time difference so it wasn’t nearly his son’s bed time, because I reckon that was one super duper excited child by the time his dad had finished!! I personally like these stories, I like to feel the artist is sharing themselves with you.
The next song was a very poignant song and brought you back to ground after 3 years olds, Jolly Rogers and Pirates!! Leeroy wrote “Little Brother” after his brother was involved in a nasty car accident and spent quite some time in hospital, unresponsive for a period of time. It made Leeroy realise how much distance had grown between him & his brother. This was a truly beautiful track. His brother is now a lot better and if I were his little brother I would be so proud that I had a song like that written about me! During this track Ryland, who was playing the guitar turned sidewards and started playing the keyboard. Again, I was impressed!
“Run Rabbit Run” followed (which once again was NOT the Flanagan & Allen version). During this there was an instrumental element, this time Ryland was on the slide guitar!
Leeroy then explained that he was an old punk rocker (by that I think he meant he was a punk rocker in his youth, not that he was old!!) & he said that that still had an influence on him. He introduced the next track as being influenced by those days – “Joe Strummer & Joey Ramone”. They all started to play & then Leeroy leant over to say something to Ryland, Ryland answered & Leeroy laughed – “I have forgotten the words” he confessed!! Hilarious!! The audience laughed and cheered!! I often wonder how they can remember all the words to all the songs they sing in their set, well now & again, they are human & forget!!
Another couple of tracks and the first part of the set was finished by an absolutely wonderful track, “Til The End Of Time”, which Leeroy dedicated to his wife & sons. Another truly beautiful song. I would like to say the audience were appreciative and attentive, but they were all the way through. Only writing this now has it come to me that the audience at these gigs are the audience I want to go to EVERY gig with!! They sit, they listen, they appreciate! There is no yakking, no really important conversations that cannot possibly wait until the artist has finished! The audience is there to listen, emerge themselves and enjoy!
The guys then took a break of about half an hour. I have to say here, although I was enjoying it, it was a bit too mellow for my liking, but WOW Ryland was impressing the hell outta me!! He was switching between guitar, banjo, electric guitar, keyboard and mandolin effortlessly! He was also using one of his electric guitars to play slide guitar, not normally a sound I am particularly keen on, I often feel its use is excessive & self indulgent. Not with Ryland!
After about half an hour the guys came back. Leeroy asked if anyone had any questions. Someone asked “What is your opinion of Trump?” Leeroy said, “If he gets in I am moving here to make sure I am as far away as possible!” They then played a couple more songs and Leeroy introduced the guys. The only 1 I haven’t mentioned yet is Tyson Michael – his effortless and beautifully understated bass lines helped create and underpin the whole stripped back sound. All 3 of the band members also sang backing vocals. I have seen solo singers sing with a backing band that they have ‘hired’ for the tour, it does usually work, but occasionally I see it where it works really well, this was one of those occasions. I think these guys work together really well, apparently Ryland did come up with a name for them all tonight – Leeroy Stagger and The Band You Are About To See!! I think the band are worthy of a better name than that!!
Leeroy then talked a little bit about big companies coming into Lethbridge and investigating fracking within the city limits. There was huge opposition apparently and so they left with their tails between their legs – good! The next track – “Poison The Water” was written about this episode & did have you thinking, although in places I did find myself thinking it sounded very similar to ‘You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt’, a song first recorded in 1946!!
Leeroy then put the harmonica brace back on, swapped the harmonica… why?? I didn’t realise there were different harmonicas!! I thought 1 harmonica was the same as another!! After he had switched them, he played a little bit & said ‘Nope, this ain’t right’ & switched them back again!! Do you remember the days when Father Christmas left you a harmonica in your stocking?? Wonder what he would think of all this swapping about!!
Leeroy said about all the great people to come from Canada, several names were shouted out & I was surprised at how long it took before Bryan Adams was shouted out. I wanted to shout it but all I could think of was Bruce Springsteen (who most definitely is NOT Canadian!!) & I couldn’t get his name out of my head!! They then went into a Neil Young song. I saw Neil Young (Isle of Wight Festival 2013) I didn’t realise he was Canadian, I also didn’t like him, so I groaned. However they did “Hey Hey, My My” & I really enjoyed it.
Tonight was the last show in the UK for these guys. Speaking to Ryland afterwards, they have only been in the UK a week, it was his first time out of Canada & he was finding the whole experience truly amazing, he said the reaction they were getting from the UK crowd was amazing, he really had not expected it!
The guys then finished with “Something Beautiful”, a song that Leeroy co-wrote with fellow Canadian Dennis Ellsworth (who got a big cheer when his name was mentioned). They finished to rapturous applause. They said thank you & good night, manoeuvred themselves off the stage, only to touch the back wall & walk back on. Ken had agreed they had time for 2 more numbers. The audience were very happy with this!
The penultimate number “CITYSTRUT” was a lot more up tempo, and much more what I personally prefer, during this number Ryland again turned to the keyboard halfway through, but this time he managed to make it sound like an old style saloon piano!!
They finished with “Passing Through”, very apt and poignant, and just a little sad. A very good evening’s entertainment. I had a quick chat with the guys afterwards, another bonus point to going to this venue, the guys generally hang around afterwards & are happy to chat & sign things. The guys were all really nice guys, I will be looking out for the new CD when it comes out!
Review By Helen Pocock (thanks again Helen!)
Photos Courtesy Of: Liam Brown, Chris Smith, Ken Brown.
What The Audience Said…
“Perfect! Another superb night from the stellar Square Roots brand it was more than worth it at twice the price. A quality 4 piece in a superb intimate setting – exquisite!” (Bob Chaffey)
“Would just like to say we had the most amazing night at this concert – we were Square Roots newbies but we’ll definitely be back, thanks so much to the organisers and the wonderful Leeroy Stagger and his band!” (Joanne Wilson)
“Just wow! Leroy and the band were simply phenomenal! Would love to see them in the main hall rocking it up too! Please can you have them back?!”