This five piece indie rock band hailing from Atlanta, Georgia are currently touring the UK to promote their newest album Hope.
The night consisted of a merry go round of personnel with most of Manchester Orchestra pulling double duty. They had already performed before their headline slot, in the form of the first support act Bad Books, the super group that also contained Kevin Devine who is a member of the second support band Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band.
With a back catalogue that now spans four albums there was certainly no lack of songs for the band to choose from. They opened with songs from their second album, Mean Everything to Nothing. The opener ‘Pride’ showcased Manchester Orchestra’s ability to transition from quiet wistful crooning reminiscent of a folk song to something almost completely different in a matter of seconds as a swirl of crashing drums, screeching guitars and Andy Hull’s now pained screams of, “I think I’m dying” filled the room. The barrage of high volume rock did not relent as the opening chords of 'Shake It Out' rung. If screaming electric guitars were allowed in an orchestra, it would be this opening riff that would get Andy Hull and his bandmates through the theatre doors.
At one point they teased 'Wolves at Night' after an audience member requested it, but this soon turned into a slight rant about being able to pick whatever song they wished. After this short interlude they returned with a rendition of 'Top Notch' from their newest album Hope. The staccato drumming and rushing guitars highlight that their newest release is their heaviest project yet.
The fact that Manchester Orchestra have such a rich catalogue to delve into makes the decision to cover the theme tune of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as their final song all the more strange. It did kind of prove their point about being able to choose whichever song they want to perform. The fact that this was one of the most well received songs though was more of an indictment of those in attendance than the actual performance of the bands.
The crowd were the glaring negative of the event. The audience have the ability to make or break a gig. A good crowd can elevate a band’s sound to the highest of musical echelons. A poor crowd can hinder the gig, giving the band nothing to feed off when looking for audience participation. Unfortunately for Manchester Orchestra they had attracted the latter; most in attendance seemed unwilling to sing along and even move during some songs.
The ear shattering sound layered with Andy Hull’s brilliantly sung dark lyrics showed that Manchester Orchestra are currently playing at their best. Sadly the lack of expected crowd participation meant that I left the gig feeling like an integral part of the performance was missing.
Image by Andrew Thomas Lee