Live in Leith sees theatre back centre stage - Janet Christie
With lockdown about to lift, we’re about to Rediscover Scotland and it’s time to visit all the places we’ve missed. For me top of the list is Edinburgh’s legendary Leith Theatre.
Back in The Before Times summer of 2019, the grand old theatre was jumping, and among the sweaty, happy crowd was me watching the likes of Teenage Fanclub, Jarvis Cocker, Neneh Cherry, Kate Tempest, Linton Kwesi Johnson, The Vaselines, Sharon Van Etten and Anna Calvi - a feast of talent and top times on the doorstep.
Opened in 1932, the legendary art deco venue has survived bombing and mothballing and was back bouncing to the beat of bands playing to full houses as the restoration campaign gathered pace.
Then came Covid and Leith Theatre lived on at the core of the community as a food donation point for Edinburgh North East Foodbank, and hosting Empty Kitchen Full Hearts who’ve distributed 500,000 plus free meals since the pandemic began. Meanwhile the Theatre’s Big Radiator Generator raised £18,852 in six weeks, a third for local homelessness charities, Steps to Hope, Four Square and Turning Point Scotland.
There’s been music too, with The Snuts and Teenage Fanclub filming singles in the auditorium, and the Wide Days convention and EIF’s 'My Light Shines On recordings.
Now the bands were back on stage with Live in Leith, streamed to an audience laptopping up new Scottish talent like Connor Fyfe, Retro Video Club, Ransom Fa and Nova.
Last up were Lucia and The Best Boys, or The Cavemen as host Vic Galloway coined their hirsute lockdown look, and The Ninth Wave. It was almost like old times.
As Lucia said: “It’s been so long since we played a venue, let alone one as beautiful and grand as this, it feels strange. But in a good way.” They took us Somewhere in Heaven then gave us a rush with You’re So Sweet, whetting the appetite for more.
Next up were fellow Glaswegian post-punk goths and proponents of tribal sad disco with a bit of industrial, The Ninth Wave, their “Everything Will Be Fine” written pre-pandemic, chiming a note of “twisted optimism”.
“It’s as hopeful as we could get,” they said, cracking a smile after a set nailing the upside of lockdown as a time to experiment and write, ahead of another banging breakout gig at Oran Mor in October.
Never mind Covid, Live in Leith was sick.
If you missed it, don’t worry, there’s life in this legendary old lady of Leith yet. Persevere.