It has long been standard music industry convention for a band to launch their new album with a special show in a prime hometown venue hoping to flog few copies of the album to some loyal supporters in the process. Idiosyncratic Edinburgh trio The Leg are far from your usual band though and the launch event for their third album An Eagle To Saturn is a special occasion that defies all expectation as they take to the stage in a secret venue in Edinburgh’s historic old town.
There are few more beautiful cities than Scotland’s capital and on a lovely spring evening under a clear blue sky the scene is set for a show quite unlike anything the stately environs of Edinburgh’s old town has seen before. The band term the event a private party rather than just another gig and there is a real atmosphere of bonhomie and anticipation as the crowd gather at a nearby bar ready to be directed to the secret location. Walking en masse up Lady Stairs Close, we discover that the space for tonight’s performance is in fact a disused bookbinders in a rather shady square. It is a dilapidated building with crumbling walls and a real historical feel to it. A location seems perfectly suited to The Leg’s brand of primitive, beguiling indie.
To make the evening more special the band are accompanied by a string section who play blissfully in the background at the opposite side of the building as the crowd make their way slowly in, adjusting to the fading light and strange ambience of the area. A sense of anticipation fills the air as you don’t quite know what you are going to expect. A full-blown classical string performance heralds The Leg’s arrival onto a rudimentary stage backed with a rolling projection of an old book entitled, The Notation Of Movement, an extremely fitting accompaniment considering the buildings history.
The juxtaposition between the gothic grandeur of the environment and the classiness of the string section with the thrilling primitive punk assault of The Leg’s performance is striking. Looking out the tiny window over the expanse of the city you get the feeling you are party to something truly special.
An Eagle To Saturn is perhaps The Leg’s most accomplished work and its bewitching charms transfer across very well to a live setting, in particular a setting as unique as this. Singer and guitarist Dan Mutch is a brooding presence as he stalks the stage menacingly unleashing the frenzied attack of Twitching Stick and the rollicking Bake Yourself Silly. The Leg are seemingly able to alternate effortlessly between charmingly silly folkish pop and full on sonic assaults and Mutch, complemented by drummer Alun Thomas and Cello player Pete Harvey, provide a performance that frequently enthrals amidst the changes in style.
The addition of the string section helps to bolster the band’s sound and it is striking just how powerful they do sound considering the primitive set up and cramped environment. The feeling of claustrophobia is exacerbated as the set moves on to its atmospheric peak. Sad As Dead Monkeys is full of portent with Mutch’s vocals turning into a tortured, coruscating howl. The deathly pulse is foreboding in the extreme and at a moment like this you can see exactly why The Leg chose a dark and disused building like this for this special show. The gig ends with the ragged groove of The Birds Are Falling; Pete Harvey’s cello is put through a variety of distortion pedals with the song rumbling to an intense crescendo.
As the crowd emerge into the night air with a the sunny spring day giving way to a cold and still night they can reflect on a stunning performance and a novel twist on the album launch concept from one of Scotland’s cleverest and treasured bands.