Live Review

Little Joy, Leeds Cockpit

It would be nothing short of impossible to have left tonight’s show with anything less than happy feet and a raised smile.

No longer plagued by the tabloids who have since switched Stroke to Albert Hammond Jr for their fix of rock’n’roll-fuelled celebrity romance, 2009 sees The Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti leaving no page blank when it comes to making his own waves in the music industry. Currently touring the UK as guitarist and backing vocalist of Little Joy, DIY sees if the man known as “Fab” can live up to his super-cool name on his own terms.

The first misnomer about Little Joy is dispelled when Los Hermanos frontman Rodrigo Amarante scuffles onto the barren stage, to spin a soothing solo rendition of ‘Evaporar’, the haunting tropicalia from the band’s self-titled debut. His tones are rich and raspy – not too unlike a teetotal Julian Casablancas - and his delivery - spellbinding. As the song softly fades out, the rest of band, which tonight includes members of support band The Dead Trees; envelope Amarante, with Moretti immediately asserting himself in the role of ‘stage monkey’, a guise which he sustains for the entire evening. At one point, he even zanily reciprocates a note passed to him from fans saying “We fucking love you Little Joy.” With the vibe hitting near fever pitch, the band instantly bounce into their reggae-tinged lead single, ‘The Next Time Around’, which features the first showcase of Fab’s ability to harmonise and LA songwriter Binki Shapiro’s subtle, smoky tones. Her contribution in Portuguese, the mother tongue of both her male counterparts, brings an ethereal air to a song styled in Californian-surf. She assumes centre stage on three further occasions- most notably her performance of ‘Unattainable’ oozes fragility from its stark simplicity. Despite her apparent discomfort in her new role on stage, Shapiro nonetheless, is an engaging asset to the band, and she later pulls off a jaunty cover of ‘Walking Back To Happiness’, an irreverent nod to namesake Helen, with punch and pizzazz.

Then Moretti gleefully mucks around with the hook from The Jackson Five’s ‘I Want You Back’ to induce a small audience singalong. And while his comic interjections are keystones to the chaotic Cockpit mood, when the songs begin, he adopts a more humble demeanour, as sidekick to the show-stealing Amarante, whose laidback charm and musical versatility seems to be what ultimately captures the audience’s hearts. Example in point being his genial conveyance of the rattling ‘How To Hang A Warhol’, a light-hearted twist on his own admitted childhood aspirations as an artist to his painter mother, juxtaposed with the sincere brooding of ‘With Strangers’, where he adopts a subdued growl against a backdrop of barbershop-style vocals from The Dead Trees’ rhythm section.

The fine-balance between such mellow moments and the faster Strokes-tinted songs like ‘Keep Me in Mind’ makes for an eclectic performance and a resounding success for this size of venue. The conveyor belt-style delivery of the entire Little Joy album, culminating in the all-encompassing refrain “There ain’t no lover like the one I got” from ‘Brand New Start’, distils not a single second of boredom, and cleverly bookends a performance dripping in the delight of a group of friends that are clearly having the time of their lives.

All in all, Little Joy convincingly demonstrated tonight that they are not, as it appears from skimming the album’s songwriting credits, merely a vehicle with Moretti in the creative driving seat, but a band in their own right, whose live show does exactly what you would expect from a band with their name – blissful sprightly melodic pop that warms up those Winter blues and brightens the grimy Cockpit room. It would be nothing short of impossible to have left tonight’s show with anything less than happy feet and a raised smile.

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