A marvellous night with the Manchester Orchestra...
Manchester Orchestra delight a sold-out crowd (much to their surprise) at the Glee Club in Birmingham with a set that celebrates the very best of their oeuvre. Could have done with a few more new ones mind.
The Glee Club – Birmingham - 08/04/14The Birmingham Glee club has played host to a slew of my favourite gigs of the past decade. Granted it's a relatively pokey venue, which was never designed to host live music, but there's an undeniable charm to the place that sets it apart from the O2 sweat-dens and LG aircraft-hangers of this world (is there any mainstream venue these days NOT sponsored by a telecommunications conglomerate?). Plus the beer is reasonably priced and the dance floor is always dependably non-stick. Tuesday night's Manchester Orchestra show easily ranks amongst those favourites. I first discovered the Atlanta, Georgia five-piece supporting Biffy Clyro many moons back, and was instantly struck by their intensity. Theirs is music that is born to be played loud and played with passion, and thanks to frontman Andy Hull's surprisingly dextrous lungs (his voice sits somewhere between Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses and Jesse Lacey from Brand New) that passion is always right there, front and centre. The Glee Club gig was no different, only this time the band had a couple more stunning album's worth of material to work with and a good 90 minutes in which to showcase them. Opening act Gang of Youths honestly didn't leave much of an impression on me besides the fact the bassist bore a striking resemblance to Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones (with significantly less muscle mass of course). Their set was competent (surprising considering how stoned the singer admitted they were) and tuneful, but the songs seemed to waffle on a little too much for my liking and the overall vibe was that of a pre-fame Kings of Leon without the backstory. Still, the closing song was a belter and the guys were obviously enjoying themselves so who knows, the album might be a grower. There was no such disappointment with the headline band, who appeared to have something of a fervent fan base amongst the crowd (word for word sing alongs were the rule rather than the exception). With a new (in my humble opinion career best) album in tow, one would expect a brace of new songs, supplemented by a few old favourites right? Well in this respect Manchester Orchestra seriously defied convention by playing less than half of the tracks from their wonderful 'Cope' album, and in fact, not actually getting to one of those numbers until almost 40 minutes into the set. They opened with 'Shake It Out', perhaps the most celebrated single from breakthrough sophomore album 'Mean Everything To Nothing', which boasts not only some of the band's most brutal riffs and triumphant chorus's, but also one of the best middle 8's in modern indie rock (once again, in my humble opinion). This set the tone for what was to follow, as they launched into their back catalogue with aplomb, firing off (should've been) hits one after the other, hitting the peak with '100 Dollars', which inspired the singalong of the evening. It's a shame they didn't give more time to the Cope material, as 'The Ocean', 'Top Notch', 'Every Stone' and the title track all sounded incredible live, lending their lo-fi roots a sharp upgrade (helped by the excellent sound, which is always top notch at the Glee Club (pun VERY much intended)). The band were obviously enjoying themselves, taking a breather every once in a while to exchange some winning banter with the crowd and even humouring one remarkably vocal fan with a rare request in the form of the subtle ballad 'Sleeper 1972' from their debut album. Said fan might well have talked loudly through his request, but that did little to dull its impact. They were enjoying themselves so much by this point that they actually forgot about the encore and opted instead to just 'play through', the mark of a classy band if ever there was one. Unfortunately due to conflicting train schedules (fuck you very much London Midland) we had to miss the last two songs, but the killing blows had already been dealt by that point. I was smitten. Manchester Orchestra are one of the most exciting live rock and/or roll bands currently touring and you'd be borderline batty to miss out!
SETLIST Shake It Out Pensacola Pale Black Eye I Can Barely Breathe Pride 100 Dollars The Ocean Iv'e Got Friends Colly Strings Cope Everything To Nothing The River Sleeper 1972 Top Notch Every Stone Simple Math The Party's Over/No Children