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Rick Melling

Felix Hagan + Louis Barabbas
House Tour - Leeds Review

Rick Melling, Features Writer

Flamboyant, maniacal musicians Felix Hagan and Louis Barabbas continued their tour of people's homes up and down the UK with its Leeds leg yesterday. Having provided myself with next to no prior information about the event I had almost no idea what to expect.

The place was in an area of the other side of the city which I had never visited, and so naturally I drew myself a crude map and attempted to cycle there sporting a camera and a rucksack of beer.

As I hit the city centre, the esoteric crisscrossing motorways, and Leeds' terrible one-way system, I very quickly became hopelessly lost. I locked up my cycle, skipped deftly over the busy dual carriageway to get some cash, and flagged a cab.

The cab driver then took me the scenic route around what I assumed to be most of South Leeds (I had given myself away as the cushy student resident I am), and dropped me off at my final address. I was quickly ushered onto a bean bag in our host's living room.

It was an intimate one ... no need for drinking myself into the scene. There was an exuberant and bearded man with a guitar standing above us in the middle of the carpet. Louis was one song into his set.

We are then treated to a confidently wild collection of eclectic material from Barabbas, who struts around the room picking his way through tunes. The man is a performer through and through, and gives it his all, even to our relatively small group of listeners - he has to change into a new white shirt after his set, as his first one is sodden with sweat. There is excellent finger-work and use of harmonics on his acoustic. Felix lounges on the sofa and laughs heartily after each song.

What I am struck and impressed with the most, after their munificent abilities on their chosen instruments, is the quality of lyrics and narrative within the song-writing. There's a witty, romping style to it which encompasses the use of some great words. As a showy writer type myself I appreciate this. There is then a brief interval and it appears these men are also as sharp in conversation as they are whilst performing.

Felix follows up Louis' act magnificently with a set of tunes on guitar and piano - and at one point both instruments during the same track (you had to be there). He has a stunning range, and his voice captivates acoustically even more so than within his studio recordings.

He comments that whilst he is commonly half naked and covered in makeup, this occasion gives him the opportunity to play some more nuanced material... and it sounds good to me. Highlights are 'Desperation Reeks', about a sexually-charged dialogue with a burlesque dancer, or 'Poser Boy', in which he desecrates a certain one-off TV celebrity acquaintance. There's also a duet, of course.

I'm happy to sit and listen to more, but the guys eventually wrap it up, and soon Felix is playing some conversational Jazz piano as Louis entertains us with tour stories about past shenanigans with the Hell's Angels.

Still very much soaking in the limelight even as things have gone casual, I take a couple of shots of the affable pair by the piano. I'm thinking about what a spectacle they must be able to put on at their bigger shows... surely one that's worth catching.

They even give me a much appreciated lift back into town.

Read Louis' account of the tour here

And Felix's tour diary here