There is without doubt a veritable buzz surrounding tonight’s performance. Over the past few months Manchester locals, NO CEREMONY /// have been steadily building up steam for this, their first ever headline show. Singles, Hurtlove and Heartbreaker have both done the rounds on major radio stations XFM, Radio 1 and Radio 6 and there’s been countless hype-building blog posts heralding them as the next big thing. Not bad at all for a band who haven’t even played a gig of their own yet. And just in case the buzz mongering of the music press and Manchester’s locals isn’t enough to spike your interest, the venue for tonight’s show is the archaic Sacred Trinity Church in Salford. Its stained glass windows, old wooden decor and scattered religious trinkets provide a very special atmosphere that no bar or venue could ever manage to recreate. A keg of ale is wheeled in to provide alcohol on tap for the makeshift bar and as the beers settle and the crowd begins acclimatize to the venue’s ambiance; it’s time for support act Cloud Boat to whet our appetites with some music.
The London duo seem to fit in seamlessly with their surroundings, the spacey guitar work shimmering delicately atop quaking bass pulses that would perhaps seem overpowering were they not held together by their singer’s haunting, falsetto vocals. Having played in Manchester quite a few times, Cloud Boat seem like lesser strangers to the crowd tonight than No Ceremony do, and when their lead single ‘Lions on the Beach’ kicks in, it lights the touch paper for some blissed out grooving and stunned appreciation. The only problem with all this is that it leaves No Ceremony with an overly tricky task of topping their own support act!
Three slightly timid looking musicians emerge from the left of stage. With few words spoken they dive straight into their instruments and start to produce some truly ethereal sounds. Electronic drum beats yomp through the mix with an overpowering low-end register and when the band’s impossibly pretty female vocalist begins to sing, the music just locks together beautifully. With trippy background visuals and their ghostly sound, here in this dark room, No Ceremony manage to come across as both menacing and sexy at the same time. Yet for their debut headline performance we might have expected a little more energy from the band, who instead seem somewhat shy, perhaps uncomfortable with a crowd who are there just for them. However, the trio seemed more at ease simply to let the music do the talking for them, as lead single ‘Hurtlove’, with its forlorn, artificially manipulated vocal harmonies sounds absolutely magical, and this high point sees the band living up to the pre-gig excitement surrounding this show.
But as tightly performed as all the songs are, the high church ceiling throws in a curveball, as it seems to collect the band’s noise and spring it right back down into the mix. The result is a cacophonous reverb that feels as though it could break loose into untamed noise at any moment. It makes every track sound super-charged, and in a lot of situations that would be fantastic. But this venue and this crowd just don’t feel right for it. As if No Ceremony were a puzzle piece being jammed into the wrong hole, it’s clear that there is a perfect place for them somewhere, just not here. However, don’t let this put you off the idea of going to a No Ceremony gig. If anything, tonight’s venue/sound mismatch is just a greater incentive to see the band play again, preferably in a small sweaty venue on the other side of town. Because here, in this Salford church, No Ceremony have proven that they’ve got the songs and the ability to play them well, all they need now is the right context.