Live Review: IST IST – Oporto, Leeds, 04.04.23

On Tuesday, a near sold-out Oporto in Leeds welcomed Ist Ist as they launch their latest offering – Protagonists

It’s an unusually intimate venue for the band that’s been rising quickly over the last few years, with successful UK and European tours under their belt in recent months. But its perfect for the diehard fans that packed into one of the smallest rooms in Leeds to hear the new music up close and personal.

The space is limiting in terms of movement and it means its not the most visually dynamic watch, especially with a sparse lighting set – nothing on the scale of their 1,500 sell out at Manchester’s Ritz, just a few days ago. But Ist Ist is a band that let the music do the talking.

It’s an appreciative audience that came out to Leeds tonight and they’re treated to a consummate musical performance from the very beginning.

The majority of the new album gets a run out in the set, to the delight of the assembled throng. They move and sway with the music, loving the chance to experience the new material in such a visceral way.

It might still be daylight outside, given the gig kicked off at 7.30pm, but from the thundering opening bassline on Stamp You Out, Oporto is increasingly gathered up into the dark, intense atmosphere that the Mancunian music creates. In such a small space, it’s even harder to escape as Mat Peters’ scintillating keyboards and Joel Kay’s precise, insistent drums envelop this audience.

With raw, controlled energy throughout, Andy Keating’s bass lines vibrating the audience to their core, the crowd hang on every evocative lyric, absorbing the stories of different characters, inhabited by Adam Houghton’s rich and resounding baritone. He rolls from being trapped in a complex relationship in Nothing More Nothing Less, to someone struggling to move forward and put their past behind them in Trapdoors. Longtime live track Emily – which appears on a full length studio album for the first time – is welcomed warmly as the crowd continue to shuffle in time with the beat.

Talking to some fans after the show, they were ecstatic about what they’d just seen. Having seen the band on a number of occasions, there’s a belief among fans that they get better every time. I let them go to join the queue, sharpening their Sharpies to collect an autograph or two. The chance to be so close offers an experience that may well not be repeated. Tonight, Protagonists sits on the verge of the top 10 in the midweek album charts. 

There are shades of Joy Division, a little Smiths perhaps, but the sound Ist Ist have developed over 3 albums is all their own. Even after nearly a decade, Ist Ist’s star continues to rise, and as the album title suggests, they emerge front and centre of their own story.

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