“I’ve played many venues in Leeds, but I don’t think I’ve ever played this place before,” notes Hayden Thorpe, the former Wild Beasts co-frontman turned singer-songwriter, surveying the snug surroundings of Hyde Park Book Club.
Once a petrol station then fancy dress shop and now a bar-cum-venue, it is the latest staging post on the road for a musician with a long association with Leeds. Wild Beasts relocated to the city, from Kendal, when they were students and they released their first single, Brave Bulging Clairvoyants, on the Leeds-based label Bad Sneakers before going on to considerable acclaim and chart success with half a dozen albums on Domino Records.
Thorpe’s debut solo album, Diviner, was largely written in the winter months during the band’s break-up and the songs’ intimate, crepuscular feel seem perfectly suited to being presented in a basement on a chilly November night.
He performs the album in full at a digital piano with ambient guitar backing from his friend Christopher Hamilton. Diviner’s title track is an early highlight, with its enticing refrain: “I’m a keeper of secrets/Pray, do tell”.
But there are plenty more lyrical images here that catch the ear. In Anywhen Thorpe croons “now when I think of us, I pretty much self-combust” while in Stop Motion he ponders “how to be humble when the world needs you to be brave”; Earthly Needs contains a brilliant reference to “emotional jujitsu”.
Thorpe prefaces a stunning cover version of Song To The Siren with an amusing tale of how he dreamt he spoke to Noel Gallagher about Tim Buckley at an Oasis reunion, and in a spine tingling moment he rises from his chair to perform a verse of Human Knots a capella at the front of the stage.
It’s that directness and emotional connection with his audience that makes Thorpe such a compelling performer.
In the concluding number, Impossible Objects, he sings: “Lose the disguise, it’s you I recognise”. The next staging post on his journey promises to be intriguing.