Gig review: Katie Von Schleicher at Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds

Alarm bells should have started ringing when Katie Von Schleicher warned that, earlier in the tour, she'd decided not to play quiet songs any more.

Katie Von Schleicher. Picture M Cooper
Katie Von Schleicher. Picture M Cooper

The Brooklyn-based songwriter has, after all, slowly built up a cult following through the drip release of dark ballads with self-lacerating lyrics.

Starting out with self-released four-track recordings, last year’s Shitty Hits marked a step up in production values. Earning praise for its mixture of creaky chamber-pop and distorted folk, it was the point at which Angel Olsen met The Beatles and 70s radio rock.

The live incarnation is an altogether less nuanced affair, with the derivative rock cranked up to maximum volume by drummer Justin and lead guitarist Adam Brisbin.

Their arrangements aren’t radically different to the recorded versions but they’re played with a heavy-handedness that turns understated despair into generic alt-rock. ‘Baby Don’t Go’ is a case in point. On 2015 mini-album Bleaksploitation her bewildered vocals repeat the title until the point of collapse over chopping drums and murky guitars. Live, its quiet devastation is lost when it’s aired in the style of Black Sabbath.

It’s a lack of subtlety that continues to undermine the 11-song set, with the vintage synth sound on ‘Paranoia’ being replaced by soft rock and the vulnerably shuffling rootsiness of ‘Midsummer’ being swamped by Brisbin’s bass heavy guitar.

Not until she goes back on her word and plays two quiet songs does she salvage the set, with the tranquil Americana of ‘Mary’ and synth ballad ‘Hold’ reminding the audience of her talent for crookedly memorable melodies.