REVIEW: Noah Kahan, Leeds First Direct Arena, Sunday 11, February 2024

OPENING the evening's proceedings, Toronto support band Wild Rivers performed an excellent set of Americana break-up songs and beautiful harmonies to a sold-out Leeds Arena crowd.

After a short interval, Counting Crows track Round Here faded from the PA as the boiler-suited Noah Kahan took the stage to a frenzied reception.

Kahan is the unlikeliest of stars, an authentic artist singing of imposter syndrome, shame, depression, and therapy.

Having signed a record deal in his teens, followed by a slow burning career, Kahan had charted just one song by last November.

This was around the time that he played the relatively intimate Leeds Beckett and his transition to arena shows is both brave and remarkable.

The 27-year-old Vermont singer-songwriter is currently the biggest overseas import into the UK music scene. His several chart hits include collaborations with the likes of Hozier, Sam Fender, and Post Malone.

Tonight, Kahan announced that “all of these songs are about negativity” as he invited the Leeds crowd to spread the morose message.

With similarities to Counting Crows and Mumford and Sons, Kahan breaks traditional pop star boundaries with a communal-like set of Americana ballads and country-style rousing singalongs.

Backed by his energetic four-piece band, Kahan opened with the mandolin-heavy All My Love, the crowd singing every single word with passion.

Kahan is humble and honest and tonight he talked about childhood depression and the fact that he still finds himself in dark places in his mind. He barely draws breath between his early songs tonight as he moves through tracks New Perspective, She Calls Me Back and Everywhere, Everything.

Tonight, Kahan clearly connected with his new adoring fanbase. He explained that the song Your Needs, My Needs was written during withdrawal from medication as he gave occasional counsel to the audience.

His advice to "don’t take yourself so seriously" and to "have some false confidence" was met with roaring empathy.

Getting closer to the crowd, Kahan ran the width of the area to high five the front row as he went. He spotted a handwritten sign in the crowd and paused as a female fan proposed to her partner.

To the delight of the woman and the entire crowd, he said yes. The singer-songwriter apologised as he moved into Call Your Mom, the apology reflecting its reference to someone contemplating suicide.

Years of anxiety and depression has fuelled Kahan’s music. Tonight, his vulnerabilities were laid bare for all to see and hear. Tonight’s concert was a communal evening of anthemic sounds.

The rousing Dial Drunk talked of regrets and the cathartic Growing Sideways of therapy and its lasting memories.

The crowd chanted "Noah" as he closed the set and the short encore comprised of the wonderful The View Between Villages, the catchy and lyrically rich Stick Season and the rolling Homesick.

Noah Kahan’s talent is clear whilst his distinctive voice and hard work generates an unwavering dedication from his audience through their palatable connection with his lyrics.