Live Review: Manchester Orchestra

October 2nd, 02 ABC

Manchester Orchestra (who are in fact five dudes with beards from Atlanta) are touring recent album Cope and the alternative, acoustic version Hope – this really is suggestively cathartic music. These are songs to scream along to in your room, or for staring sadly out of rainy bus windows recovering from break ups, a soundtrack for your teen, or early twenties (or late twenties, or thirties….) angst.

Singer Andy Hull’s vocals begin sweet on gig opener ‘Pride’, quiet and chilled with Mumford and Sons vibes (except, like, good) but contrast wonderfully when the song builds and things get heavier. In later, more emotionally wrought songs, they move into Mountain Goats territory; slightly surreal but arresting lyrics, emotively sung and played loud and energetically. Kudos to guitarist Robert McDowell by the way, who played not only for Manchester Orchestra but both support bands too.

Throughout, the band sticks mostly to their usual heavier sound, layered guitars and crashing drums, but now and again they pull back for quieter, acoustic versions. These quiet moments are occasional but they draw attention to their poignant, sometimes odd, lyrics and unusual instrumental touches, with the occasional brass or synth line amongst their standard guitars, drums, keyboard setup.

Closer ‘Deer’ is euphoric, with heavenly-sounding backing vocals and recordings as the chorus was shouted along by the fans. Hull and Kevin Devine came back for a more stripped-down encore, soft guitar lines and harmonies on a cover of Bad Books’ ‘42’, then concluded with a chilled folk cover of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.’ No, really. And it was really good. As the lights came up and everyone filed out there was a sense of a shared cathartic experience; people having coped, and being hopeful.

[Clare Patterson]

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