Benefits / Scrounge – The Lending Room, Leeds, 22nd April 2023

Posted: 23 April 2023 in Live
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Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been quite a week for Benefits. Kicking off an extensive UK tour in the same week as the release of their debut album, which has landed to universal critical acclaim, they’ve come a long way, and they know it better than anyone. It’s small wonder they’re fired up for this return to Leeds, which is where it all started in terms of their journey as a live act, and which has seen them transition from a homespun lockdown project into a national act with a following that’s growing by the day, due in no small part to their formidable live performances.

But to step back a moment and consider the album, of which myself I wrote a suitably efficiently enthusiastic review of just the other day: ‘universal critical acclaim’ is no mere hyperbole. Sometimes, a release by a major artist will receive a set of (very similar) reviews in the major press which almost feel like there’s been some kind of advance agreement on a consensus that this is one of their ‘good’ albums or a ‘return to form’ or whatever, with only one or two outliers, more often than not in more alternative channels. These moments strike as somewhat suspicious, since you clearly can’t please all of the people, even some of the time when it comes to something as subjective as music.

And yet Benefits have defied all of everything with the reception for Nails. Sure, an interviewer for Louder Than War suggested that the album was ‘depressing; and admitted it wasn’t something he envisaged listening to much, but the site’s review was roundly positive.

This unanimity is testament to the band’s unifying message: while some may find the barrages of noise challenging, there is absolutely no denying their sincerity, passion, or the power of the truth spoken in the lyrics, making Benefits THE voice of the disaffected here in Shit Britain. You might think that having just expended nearly a thousand words on the album the other day I’d be all out of words for benefits, but I’m just warming up, because the more I see and hear them, the more I have to say.

As the place packs out and the queue at the bar packs as deep as the clamour for the front, guitar / drums duo Scrounge entertain us with a vigorous set. They’re a pleasant surprise who start out suggesting that they’re ramshackle punkers with a murky distorted guitar sound, before, over the course of their set, revealing that they’re so much more. Unexpectedly melodic, with some chiming guitar tones, they deliver some proper songs with tunes and choruses, and incorporating both acoustic drums and drum pads, they vary the sound and style throughout the set. They’re indie, but with guts, and remind me in places of A Band of Susans.



Something has changed since Benefits last came to Leeds, and it’s not just the drummer – although Cat Myers is stunning, and her contribution can’t be overstated. This is my third time seeing the band, and the third drummer I’ve seen them with, and Cat really brings a rare level of sonic articulation to the dynamic of the sound. She doesn’t just drum: she drives the colossal walls of noise blasted out by the Major brothers. They’ve never sounded better: the dual-synth noise assault is crisps and clear and subject to perfect separation tonight, meaning the tones and frequencies really hit hard; the bass shakes the bowels while the treble vibrates the nostrils (I take it’s that’s not something only I experience) as they blast through ‘Marlboro Hundreds’: just as it’s the perfect album opener, it’s the perfect set-opener, too, and following with ‘Empire’ again delivers that antagonistic blast of noise and rage that’s utterly flooring.

But as I said, something has changed. They seem more confident – not cocky by any stretch, still as humble as ever – but assured, while the crowd – perhaps there are more here who’ve been swayed by the acclaim – is a but chattier in pockets, which is irritating, but contrasted by the number of people who are shouting the lines back to the stage. There are more calls out, too – not heckling, per se as it’s not critical, but a keenness to engage, bantz (perhaps not best recommended, but indicative of the level of exuberance in the room) and even hands out for high fives (perhaps not best recommended, but indicative of the level of exuberance in the room).

‘Divide and Be Conquered’ delivers a deep dance groove while Kingsley throws rockist mic stand poses, before they take it down a notch with ‘Shit Britain’ with its shuffling beats and splashes of samples.



As I said, the more you listen, the more you discover: they’re not just shouting and walls of noise, and the set’s variety is something that stands to the fore, perhaps more so with the benefit (boom) of familiarity: ‘Warhorse’ is a raw punk, while ‘Council Rust’ is sparse; ‘Thump’ brings a white noise blitzkrieg ahead of a muscular rendition of fan-favourite ‘Flag’, which is utterly devastating.

Kingsley sits, slumped on the drum riser or on all fours between songs later in the set: he pours every ounce of energy and emotion into every line, and while there is clearly an element of performance about a Benefits show, more than anything, it’s about giving it all to every show, every song, every line, every word. This is fucking real. And that’s what people respond to. The music may be aggressive, harsh, delivered right in your face, but it’s unifying.



Hall can barely stand after an extended and ultra-intense rendition of ‘Traitors’, but still just finds the juice for the (not really) encore of ‘Taking Us Back’, which swings into arena rock and which shouldn’t work, but does in fact provide the perfect finish to a set which eschews genre limitations and showcases a band channelling by whatever means, and doing so with colossal force. The experience leaves me too socked in the mouth to wrap up with a pithy one liner or anything smart. Just… fuck, yeah.

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