Leopold & His Fiction

We don’t do a lot of live show reviews around these parts of the Internet. I’ve just never felt like it was all that interesting for people to read about a show they didn’t go to; whereas, anyone can hear one of the records we review. However, when I was recently presented with the opportunity to see local folk-rockers Leopold and His Fiction open for noted “heavy-metal revivalists” The Cult, my curiosity was piqued. This was the grand total of facts I knew about Leopold & His Fiction: Their lead singer is named Daniel, and he is also in the local old-school folk group Cowboy & Indian. How in the hell could they have made a good fit for The Cult? Who decided to book that show? Wouldn’t the audience of aging metal maniacs boo these half-pint hipsters off the stage? I had to find out.

Fortunately, I didn’t listen to any of L&HF’s three full-length albums before the show, because if I had my befuddlement would only have grown. While they have compelling songs, I wouldn’t say they “rock.” Outside of a retro-psych track like “Weeds” and garage rocker “Lion Share” (which would fit well alongside a set from locals The Sweet Nuthin), the majority of 2012’s 3 is a fairly languid affair. “Yeah Boy” is a sweet country shuffle, “Ride” is a gorgeous, finger-picked, atmospheric song, and “Golden Friends” is a high-energy groove that eventually breaks out into dance. I actually like the album despite (because of?) its eclecticism (most clearly exemplified by “Reprise Part 1,” whose chord progression recalls Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man”); it just makes the band I saw on Wednesday night even more impressive.

My first visual impression of Leopold and His Fiction seemed to confirm my concerns. The lead singer looks like a hipster version of Freddie Mercury, with his tight mustache and tucked-in shirt, and the drummer’s baggy button-down shirt and oversized beanie was like homeless chic. I readied myself for the bloodbath. They opened with “Gonna Be Your Boy” from their 2006 self-titled debut album, but it couldn’t have been further from the countrified stomp of the album version (which is reminiscent of the country version of the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman”). Here, the song had been transformed into a badass rock jam. When lead singer Daniel James cut into a shredding solo, it was clear that this was not the same folk-rock band from records.

In fact, the set suggested a new direction for the power trio. Of the eight songs they played, only two of them drew from an existing LP. And how many came from the most recent album, 3? Zero. This is a band that’s looking ahead, as they work on an album for the spring with Frenchie Smith, and they are amping up their sound. The rhythm section had muscle and James was an engaging frontman. He shouted out to his hometown Detroit Tigers between songs, gestured emphatically while singing, and leapt around the stage during solos. I actually wondered how he managed such intense soloing with all of the excess movement going on. As for the songs, only “Mine to Call My Own” was a let-down. Everything else was rocking heavily. As I looked around at the crowd, a ton of people were actively engaged with the band. They won over the metal folks and warmed them up for the hard-rocking Cult that followed.

It was clear that Leopold and His Fiction are great musicians with a good bunch of songs. Mostly what I drew from this experience, though, was an excitement for their record in the spring. And of course, we’ll let you know when it finally drops.

– Carter