The windswept, open plains that are evoked by Paul Thomas Saunders’ music are more Colorado than Chapeltown.
He nonetheless earned his musical stripes in the bars of Leeds - his signature being a tin can taped adjacent to his microphone – before he moved to Hove and signed a deal with Atlantic Records.
The tin can has been left behind as the 24-year-old starts to promote his debut album, Beautiful Desolation. Receiving favourable reviews across the board, the release is brought vividly alive by tonight’s self-assured performance.
Switching between keyboard and guitar, he conveys a sense of yearning on the quietly epic ‘Santa Muerte’s Lightning & Flare’ and ‘Appointment In Samarra’. The swathes of glacial synths and ethereal guitars that are added by his three-piece backing band bring an unashamed 80s influence to such tracks that has some of the elemental gothicism of Echo And The Bunnymen.
The quietly bombastic arrangements reach a kind of pinnacle on ‘Wreckheads And The Female Form’, which thrillingly concludes with Saunders and keyboard player Kate Matthews joining Ali Thynne on a three-way drumming pattern.
It’s a rare instance of the music sharing the dynamic freedom of Saunders’ aching falsetto, which veers from the purity of David J Roch to the huskily emotive strains of The Delays’ Greg Gilbert. The ace up his sleeve, his timbre offers salvation to over arranged tracks that would otherwise languish in sub-Keane anthemic rock (as on piano ballad ‘Good Women’).
Finally afforded unalloyed attention on solo encore ‘Howl And Kill’, he shows the nakedly affecting power of his compositions and confidently signals his path towards a commercial breakthrough.
Gig date: April 11