It would be easy to dismiss Chapel Club as just another bunch of skinny indie boys, with their black jeans and big, doomy sound a la Joy Division/Interpol/Editors/White Lies (delete as applicable, according to age). However, first impressions can be deceptive, as Chapel Club are a band full of surprises.
One of the biggest of those surprises is the deep baritone that comes from the rather diminutive figure of singer Lewis Bowman – on the tiny stage of the Leadmill’s ‘second room’, it looks a bit cramped but Bowman dominates proceedings. He’s an intense performer, gazing at the crowd with a slightly menacing aura – completely at odds with his smiley, humble patter between songs, thanking people for coming and sounding genuinely surprised when he hears that people have been buying the band’s debut album.
They may have one of the more epic sounds of the year so far, but Chapel Club’s music comes across equally as well in a more intimate setting. Opening number Surfacing has the delightful twist of stealing the lyrics to Dream A Little Dream which has the crowd immediately singing along, while guitarist Michael Hibbert’s obvious discomfort with the sound quality doesn’t affect the band’s concentration in the slightest.
As well as the key tracks from debut album Palace, the band also throw in a few songs from the Wintering EP, showing off a more moody side, with Bodies being a particular highlight (Bowman dedicates this to a young couple in the audience – “don’t let anyone tell you we’re hipsters, I’m just a sad, sentimental old dad figure”).
Inevitably though, it’s the Palace tracks that go down best – All The Eastern Girls producing the biggest singalong of the night, while the thrilling Fine Light segueing into the wonderful O Maybe I being a contender for highlight of the night. It was a short but sweet set, with the only surprise being the omission of early single Five Trees (“God no, not Five Trees…it’s been widely reported that I hate that song” mutters Bowman when the crowd shout for it). Instead, we’re treated to a stunning encore of Widows, an eight minute long track from the Winterling EP, never before performed live.
From the reaction tonight, it will be a while before we get to see Chapel Club as up close and personal as tonight. They’re a band on an upward trajectory, and the nation’s stadiums and arenas will no doubt be ringing out to their riffs soon. Catch them while you can, for their moment is now.