Moses Sumney


Moses Sumney is otherworldly. From the moment he strides on stage with his impossible height, incredibly high waisted trousers, a kind of robe adoring his arms, it’s impossible to remove your eyes from him for the next hour or so. He is magnetic, enthralling, magical. He commands the stage, flanked by a drummer and two others (who, throughout the night, play all of the instruments – guitars, keyboards, synths, violins, clarinets – they’re taking ‘multi instrumentalist’ to a whole new level), in complete control from the very start to the moment he bows deeply to respect the adoring standing ovation we give him at the end of the encore.

The LA based Sumney unleashed his extraordinary voice upon the world in the form of his beautiful debut album Aromanticism late last year, all falsetto and reverb and gorgeousness, singing tales of one night stands and romantic rejection (‘aromanticism’, after all, is the inability to feel romantic love’) with extraordinary instrumentation, and if tonight’s crowd of Manchester’s cool young things is anything to go by, the hipsters lapped it up and have turned him into a rising star. This is his first ever gig in the UK, and the anticipation is high. When he enters the fray, to stand behind his Art Deco style mic stand with three separate mics, which frequently makes him look like he’s giving a press conference in the 1920s, there’s kind of a hushed awe about us as we wait for him to begin.

For the first three songs it feels like everyone barely breathes as he segues from ‘Don’t Call Me’ into ‘Indulge Me’ and then ‘Quarrel’ without a break for applause, and it’s engrossing to watch him assemble his songs. He loops his own vocals, backing himself up, loops hand claps and mic slaps, wails into one mic and uses another to sing in the most glorious falsetto you could want to hear, pitch shifting his voice to make ungodly sounds, picking up a guitar to gently strum the lines as the musicians with him swap from instrument to instrument to create a stunning back drop for this incredible talent to work on. When the first natural break appears, the crowd show their pent up appreciation and Sumney breaks into a gorgeous smile, addressing us for the first time to let us know that the next song is “about making out in a car”.

He plays the wordless jam ‘Call-To-Arms’ from his new Black in Deep Red, 2014 EP, the first time he or his band have played it live (it’s tight AF, naturally), followed by an extended, pounding ‘Rank & File’ from the same EP, a heart thumping moment that makes me wish we were all stood up rather than seated in the understatedly grand Dancehouse Theatre setting. What follows is an extraordinary moment, on a song I’m not familiar with, as Sumney descends from the stage into the aisle of the audience to sing a stunning song, spotlighted, on his knees, eyes screwed shut, passion flowing out of him, which then breaks for a wonderful violin solo which the audience break into spontaneous applause for despite the song not being done; it’s the highlight of a evening stuffed with them.

Sumney returns solo for an encore, treating us to a cover of Amy Winehouse’s tender ‘I Heard Love Is Blind’, before leading an audience participation aided ‘Man on the Moon’ playfully chastising us for our lack of enthusiasm and telling us to join in “unless you can’t sing, in which case, you know, just support those who can!”, finishing with a pin-drop-silence-inducing ‘Plastic’, leading to that standing ovation and deep, appreciative bow. Sumney is an astonishing, singular talent; I feel privileged to have seen his first foray into the UK, and cannot wait to see him return.

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