Live Review: Kawala – The Wardrobe, Leeds 07.04.2022

Huw Williams

This is something of a homecoming for Kawala who formed in 2014 at Leeds College of Music, literally a stones throw from The Wardrobe where they kicked off their 2022 tour tonight, supporting their first album Better With You.

Entering the stage with a bang, frontmen Jim Higson and Daniel McCarthy certainly made an impression. Jim gyrating his way to the front, complete with some high kicking in time with the music immediately engages the loyal fanbase in the crowd.

The opener Jesse C’Mon is a good starter, enough energy to get the party started, but leaving them somewhere to go for the rest of the set. It’s a feature of their folky / indie-pop tracks from this new record – they’re mellow but with a catchy, upbeat drive that keeps you engaged with them, rather than dropping into the background.

The first part of the show ebbs and flows a little in this way, and doesn’t really kick properly into gear until we hear the 2020 track Animals. There’s precisely the reaction that you’d expect for an old fan favourite track, as the crowd move into action, singing and clapping along in unison for the first time. The same followed with Angry Man, delivered with greater attack that the recorded version.

We’re quickly given a break though as Daniel ask us “Who feels like crying tonight…in a good way!” This is the preamble to their “obligatory” sad song Sailor (another from the new record), which offers a delightfully cynical point of view on the purpose of songwriting as therapy. “People say that sad songs help you get over your pain”, Daniel offers. “But instead, it’s just a painful reminder every time you play it!”

We gather pace again from here – Never Really Here For Long is a triumph of call and response singing from the audience, and following a short break to turn this gig into an impromptu birthday party for Daniel – complete with cake, party poppers and glittery hats generously thrown into the audience – we’re back underway with the music.

Rounding off strongly with Do It Like You Do and Runaway the main set comes to a high energy close. Indeed, these guys know how to end a show. The encore of Ticket to Ride (not a Beatles cover!) – sung word for word back to them by the crowd, Kawala leave the stage to the strains of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline – favourite of sporting crowds all over the UK since last summer. The crowd were reluctant to leave the venue as they bellowed out the chorus.

It took a little while to warm up, but when it did, as the crowd were chanting, it was “so good, so good”

Set list:

Jesse C’Mon




Good Like This

Pure Desire


Angry Man


Hold Back The Years


Never Really Here For Long


Do It Like You Do


Encore: Ticket to Ride

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