Zak Abel – Live Review – Leeds Brudenell
By Graham Clark, December 2023
The last time Zak Abel played a gig in Leeds there were only around seventy people there. He announces this to a far bigger audience as he arrives on stage at the Brudenell Social Club.
Following an appearance on Graham Norton’s Friday night television show and after a performance at the King’s Coronation concert last year, Abel’s profile has risen to a higher level. With a new album, Love Over Fear, released during the summer, the soulful singer follows in the tradition of artists like Kenny Thomas and Jarrod Lawson, both of whom are underrated and deserve further recognition.
Arriving onto the music scene in 2014, Abel has already been on two record labels – many artists might not have stayed the distance, but thankfully Abel has managed it with a mixture of determination and talent and aided by a natural stage presence.
Backed by a four-piece band he makes it appear like he has been performing for years; his easy-going stage manner and interaction with the audience is genuine and uncontrived. Hearing the stories behind his songs adds a personal touch to the evening – feeling like you are watching an artist who should now be a household name, which begs the question of whether Abel can make the jump to the big league.
‘What Love Is’ and ‘These Are the Days’, are fine opening numbers, although you feel he’ll need that one big hit to catapult him to a wider audience. In the past he has recorded with Avicci and fellow Swede Kygo, although these tracks have led him to have a stronger presence in the rest of Europe, rather than in the UK.
Abel embraces a soulful presence throughout his set where the vibe and energy never drops. Recently married he dedicates ‘Woman’ to his wife, whilst closing number ‘Be Kind’ is passionate and showcases his all-round talents.
In an inclusive concert, Abel invites support act Charlotte Jane to duet with him and later invites two members of the audience up on stage for a dance off on the track ‘Dance with You’. Rather than being a diversion from his musical talent the moment seems to reflect well on his friendly and laid-back approach. Looking surprised at the enthusiastic response from his Leeds fans, he promises to return to the city.
Where he goes from here should be interesting. A support act proposition on a major tour would be ideal, as – naturally – would more radio airplay. Regardless, his Leeds crowd already know that they’ve been watching one of the best kept secrets in British music.