Review: The Wardrobe, Leeds

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Whenever I think of The Wardrobe I think of great music.

It is not just because the venue consistently has a first-rate soundtrack playing through its speakers whenever it is open for business. Ratehr it is because its downstairs area is a long-standing gem of a music venue, hosting a veritable cavalcade of amazing gigs since its inception.

I have so many great shows in this auspicious venue that I almost consider it hallowed ground.

Most notably on a very hot summer night in 2002 I saw Michael Franti, one of the founding fathers of modern hiphop, performing with his long-standing backing band Spearhead. To this day I consider the unique combination of social commentary, amazing rapping and singing that he handed his audience that night to be one of the best performances I have witnessed. I even shook his hand at one point.

On my most recent visit it is clear to me that a great deal has changed. I am now married and have a daughter, and am in The Wardrobe to celebrate my beautiful wife’s birthday.

While my own circumstances have altered immeasurably the venue remains the same paragon of cool it was that hot summer night.

In a crass attempt to act like Don Draper I order an Old Fashioned while the wife justifiably orders a glass of champagne.

The bar staff have a job on their hands tonight. A boyband who apparently went down a storm on Britain’s Got Talent are performing downstairs and a gaggle of extremely excited teenage girls have been queueing outside since sunrise.

The champagne order means that the barman has to brave the throng in the downstairs venue to fetch a chilled bottle. A lesser man would have baulked at the prospect but he does so without complaint and a smile on his face.

The wife and I sit and enjoy our drinks. The clientele, much like ourselves and looking up said boyband on their phones to find out what they are missing out on. It becomes clear they are a big noise, having attracted hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.

Despite the mania downstairs the upstairs bar remains a haven of cool and collected calm. A wonderful combination of jazz and blues plays at an unobtrusive level and the wife and I talk about the old days.

As the teen fans spill onto the streets I am reminded of just how much music can enthuse and inspire the young and old. If it’s teen-orientated pop or hiphop, The Wardrobe can handle it all to great aplomb. Even though 13 years have gone by it is still one of the best bars in Leeds.

Date:22nd May 2017.
Picture James Hardisty.
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