Live. Manchester Orchestra

Live. Manchester Orchestra

With Kevin Devine & the Goddamn Band and Bad Books.
October 7th 2014. Shepherds Bush Empire.

For three albums, Manchester Orchestra built their recorded trade in quiet but assured melancholy. It inspired a fervent fanbase who’d stand in awe as Andy Hull eviscerated himself on stage. Taking the indie-rock reflections as a blueprint, Manchester Orchestra were always a dynamic live presence but with the red and black of their fourth album, the Atlanta four-piece now have the arsenal to turn that still appreciation into a maddening physical lust.

Opening tonight’s show at the magnificent Shepherds Bush Empire were Bad Books, a collaborative project between Manchester Orchestra and Kevin Devine.

As you’d expect from a side project whose main duties lay elsewhere that evening, Bad Books commanded the stage with a relaxed smile. Limber and with a devil may care attitude, the chemistry between these long-term friends/collaborators was the real highlight of a set that, despite its engaging whimsy, merely served as a taster for what was to follow.

Kevin Devine returned to the stage with his own ‘Goddamn Band’ almost as quickly as people could from the bar. They kicked off with the title track from last years ‘Bubblegum’ and clearly relished the freedom of space. Bouncing through a set that drew heavily from that album, there was a revitalised aura of celebration throughout. Upbeat, fluid and with a wicked sense of occasion, Kevin Devine and The Goddamn Band put in a stunning performance that on most evenings would have sat as the jewel in the crown. Slowing things down for the introspective Little Bulldozer and concluding things with a raw, purgative run through of Blood Brothers only highlighted the depth of creativity and showmanship that this band can mine. Despite the friendship and camaraderie displayed only an hour early, the gauntlet had been well and truly thrown down for Manchester Orchestra to tackle.

Manchester Orchestra have always looked at home playing club shows. Their lyrical heavy weather giving the illusion that proximity to the stage was needed for the intimacy that was sung about. During their April headline tour, which included a sold out show at the Scala, the material from Cope sat at arms length from the rest, breaking up the set. Non-stop touring and an understanding of the musical ramifications of such a visceral album have brought Manchester Orchestra to tonight. The final stop on a nine date UK tour and their biggest headline show in the capital. From the foot stomping, stuttered opening of ‘Pride’ through the swift one-two of ‘Shake It Out’ and ‘Pensacola’ before finishing with an extended ‘The Only One’, that saw vocal harmonies twisted around little fingers, Manchester Orchestra looked every bit the band ready to take on the world. Relentless and without apology, the band hit their stride immediately and took the evening at their own pace. The breakneck fury of ‘Cope’ leading into the pin-drop stillness of ‘Sleeper 1972’ playfully exploited the extremes, while elsewhere the waltzing ‘Everything to Nothing’ and the off-kilter singalong of ‘Deer’ added deeper hues to their palate.

It gets to a point where it’s not just about the songs. Yes, you’d be hard pushed to find lyrics as close to genius as these, but now Manchester Orchestra know how to use them; when to take our breath away with a gut-wrenching ‘Colly Strings’ or lift us skywards with a thundering ‘Top Notch’.

In an interview earlier this year, the band admitted they’d like to headline festivals. Everything from the light show, the assured stage presence to the avoidance of tired demands to clap hands and singalong, sits Manchester Orchestra closer than you might think to this dream. They’ve always been a great live band whose charming progression has felt natural, but this step up could see the band run and run. A glistening snowball amidst an unstoppable avalanche.


~ by justdip on 24/10/2014.

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