Artist: Leo Grande
Location: Berlin, Germany
Date: 20 October 2018
Leo Grande played the first night of their German tour in their hometown at the cozy Prachtwerk. Antonio Hoffman led the group with acoustic guitar and vocals, preferring a folky fingerpicking style over anything heavy. His vocals were stronger than I was expecting, although his annunciation was casual and loose such that I didn't quite catch every word. The lyrics were in German, and from what I could I understand, they were personal but amusing and often focused on social connection and understanding. Their looming cover of Ton Stein Scherben's "Mein Name ist Mensch" ("My Name Is Human") fit right into their themes.
However, Leo Grande was far more than just a singer/singwriter with a backing band. The interplay of all four musicians was what made their performance successful. Jonathan Kirchgeßner played keyboards that sometimes kept to the shadows but often swelled with drama. His tones set the mood of their songs towards darkness or light. Raffael Bernhardt supplied superb harmonies while holding down an upright bass. His variety of techniques meant that the bass was more than just filler for the low end. Andrea Zuliani also offered a mix of styles and rhythms with his drumset that kept the pace from being monotonous.
Their style was jazzy, but not just because of the upright bass and the brushes on the drums. It was more about how the musicians worked together to construct a cohesive and compelling sound without getting lost in pretentious complexity or pandering with simplistic clichés. Their sense of balance was essential: Antonio took a few brief solos, but for the most part, they played off each other and just let the instrumentals build up together. That feeling of collaboration was what made them special. No one member was the star: they all had something to contribute.