Live Review: Manchester Orchestra @ ICA, London 21/07/09
What strikes one immediately upon entrance to the ICA (apart from the fact that you’re seeing a gig about 300m from the ruddy Queen’s house) is the extreme darkness. In fact, Rivmixx didn’t realise the scale of the mid-sized venue, nor just how crowded it was until this reviewer’s (admittedly shoddy) eyes had taken five minutes to adjust.
However, the darkness only aided the respectful atmosphere and support act Kevin Devine was clearly relishing the chance to convey his clever acoustic pop in a cerebral setting appropriate to the songs themselves. The singer/songwriter drew mainly from new album ‘Brother’s Blood’, which saw a UK release on Monday (July 20). Political and emotional content matter was carefully interwoven with catchy guitar parts and the singer managed to competently steer clear of whiney emo territory.
Devine’s whisperings, and the fleeting duets with an elusive Andy Hull (Manchester’s lead singer and songwriter) meant the audience was fully primed for some explosive rock music by the time Manchester Orchestra took to the stage. Andy Hull, making the most of the hushed crowd, opened with the hilarious ’50 Cent’, “So don’t get bummed out/’Cause even if your raps don’t sell out/You’ve still got,like, half a billion fucking dollars/So try to be cool, and call me back.” Unsurprisingly, the audience was immediately on side. From then on it was a one-sided battle and the ‘Orchestra treated the audience to an onslaught of heavy melody, drawing mainly from recently released second album ‘Mean Everything To Nothing’.
Rivmixx’s only gripe with the set was the exclusion of ‘100 Dollars’, which could have had much sing-along potential, nevertheless the group had an excited audience fully entranced for over an hour. Overall the atmosphere was one of a privileged few gaining an in-sight into a band about to make the transition to the next league up.
Despite frequent re-tunes, Hull kept the spectators amused with his onstage banter, at one point, stating as he twiddled the tuners, “We’re not rich enough to not have to do this”. Whilst they might never make 50 Cent dollar, Rivmixx reckons they soon could be. It’s becoming increasingly clear that with bands like the Gaslight Anthem and M.O. rising to prominence, the death knell of the long-drawn out garage-rock revival may have been sounded. Straight-up rock is back with a melodic, sing-along vengeance.
Keep an eye out for a forthcoming interview with Manchester Orchestra‘s Chris Freeman in the next few weeks.
Written for Rivmixx