LIVE: WERKHA – BAND ON THE WALL, MANCHESTER

After creating a whirlwind of online attention with early releases that were the fruits of bedroom-based labour, Manchester’s Werkha has since transformed his output into something much more humanistic.

He can count 6 Music DJ Gilles Peterson as an avid supporter, so much so that his single ‘Sidesteppin’’ was featured on last year’s edition of his Brownswood Bubblers compilation.

Since then Werkha (real name Tom Leah) has gone from strength to strength – first being snapped up by iconic label Tru Thoughts and then joining none other than Bonobo on his European tour.

The Bonobo stint was something of a baptism of fire for Leah. Although he has been rocking Manchester with his DJ sets for a couple of years now, his inaugural support slot was the first time that he had brought his music to the live stage.

After returning to home soil though, the time came on Thursday for Werkha to play his first full UK live show at Manchester’s Band on the Wall – a performance billed as a triumphant homecoming and a launch party for his debut EP Beacons.

He takes to the stage and immediately proves that he couldn’t be further away from the lazier section of the electronic fraternity who are happy to simply stand there and press play. The show starts with him single-handedly treating the crowd to a backing of syncopated beats alongside a guitar instrumental that has everyone’s attention from the off.

Next comes an arrangement of the remix that Leah more than capably produced for Dutch Uncles. His rendition of their track ‘Fester’ takes their brand of art-rock in another direction entirely – peaking and troughing in the most thrilling of manners.

This isn’t just a one-man show though and throughout the evening the producer is joined by vocal collaborator Bryony Jarman-Pinto and cellist Shunya.

The driving beats of ‘Tempo Tempo’ demonstrate the more electronic side of the live show before the set is really brought to life with infectious renditions of ‘Moving with the Nuisance’ and ‘Sidesteppin’’ – both of which of which provide a platform for the live trio to perform at the height of their powers.

There’s a sense of occasion throughout the evening and a general feeling that next time this show comes to Manchester’s live stage it may have to be at a more sizeable venue.

To witness the effort and meticulous planning that Leah has put into developing his sound into such a multi-faceted live set is truly impressive and a measure of why he has become a trailblazer of electronic music in such a short space of time.

Keep your eyes peeled for Far Out Magazine’s interview with Werkha to mark Record Store Day 2014 – we will be catching up with the man himself to discuss his innate love for vinyl and the sociable camaraderie of independent record stores.

Patrick Davies

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