The city of Leeds is cold and wet, resembling a miserable winter’s day more than an evening in Spring. But in Oporto, a bar and live music venue in the lower end of the city, the atmosphere couldn’t be further from the glumness outside. As you step inside, the warmth coming from the people tightly packed in the venue hits you, before the intensity of people chatting at the bar, mixed with the sounds of support acts PEAKES and Diving Station, sets the mood for the evening.
The reason Oporto is full to the brim with people of varying ages is because Leeds 5-piece Heir are launching their latest single I’ll Pick You Up. The alternative pop band who formed in 2015 have had a successful couple of years, gaining support slots for the likes of Honne, Lawson and The Dunwells, and have recently been announced to perform at this year’s Live at Leeds Festival.
As the band take to the tiny stage, the crowd cheer enthusiastically as they begin the first track Heal When It Hurts. A couple of minutes in to the song, the boys all look at one another bearing huge smiles, clearly pleased with the reaction they are getting from the crowd. “We’ve not been going for that long and it’s a surprise to see so many of you here tonight” frontman Tom Hammond declares with a smile on his face.
Something that is noticeable in a number of the songs is the impressive falsetto from Hammond and his ability to slide effortlessly between the different ranges. Not many musicians can make it sound so easy but it appears to come naturally to him, particularly in Be Somebody, a fairly new song that the crowd appear to enjoy.
As the “ooh’s” begin for the start of one of the band’s older songs Scrapped Paper, various members of the audience start dancing to the catchy up-beat track. One thing that Heir should be commended for is their impressive, tight harmonies, which are shown not just in this song, but through many others during the set. It’s not easy to be able to control these so well, but the band make it look effortless.
Halfway through the set, Hammond addresses the audience with a grin from ear to ear saying, “I’m stood here and I can’t take the smile off my face because so many of you have turned up.” The numerous thanks given throughout the set do not get tiring, as it simply shows a band who are genuinely grateful for the support they have been given in the few years they have been together.
King’s Parade see’s the band bring it down a level, as the up-beat guitar riffs are replaced by chilled, acoustic guitar chords. The song, which tells the story about someone who moves away, is so emotive with its honest lyrics, you feel like you’re getting a glimpse into Hammond’s personal diary. The room is silent and the audience watch on, captivated by the simplicity of the song.
After making the audience wait until the back end of their set, the band finally introduce their latest single I’ll Pick You Up. For people who have been fans of the band from the get go, it’s noticeable how their sound has matured, taking obvious inspiration from American pop rock band HAIM. The track starts quite synth heavy and moves into a catchy chorus, full of tight harmonies. The anticipated new single goes down well with the audience, who sing back the lyrics in the chorus and clap along throughout.
A poignant moment comes just before Need You the Most, a song about making the most of magical moments. Before they begin, Hammond discusses the hideous events that unfolded in Westminster, simply stating that “music just does something that pulls people together” and continues to say that it is at times like this where we need to stick together, and as the song describes, make the most of magical moments. He executes the tribute tenderly, addressing the horrific situation just perfectly.
To finish, the band play an acoustic version of When the Lights Went Out. With an almost silent audience, the band are exposed, allowing Hammond’s raspy vocals to shine. The acapella lead up to the chorus once again features impeccably tight harmonies, something that is clearly becoming a trade mark for the band – and why not, when they execute it so well?
It is without doubt that tonight’s single launch is a raving success. For a band who have been around for next to no time, it is credit to them that so many people have come to see them perform – and it’s understandable why. With great material, great stage presence and great appreciation for the support they have received thus far, Heir seem to have nailed what can only be described as a winning formula.