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Manchester Orchestra

– THE RITZ, MANCHESTER –

Since this tour was announced I’ve been super excited. Firstly the fact that Atlanta rock band Manchester Orchestra are headlining The Ritz is a triumph in itself, but with Brooklyn songwriting maverick Kevin Devine in main support with his GodDamn Band backing him up? Thats pretty sweet! And then opening the show we have Bad Books, which is basically Manchester Orchestra with Kevin Devine. Unreal.

It’s quite funny to see a headline back walk on stage dead early to a half full room, almost as if no one is aware of what or who Bad Books is. I’ve been listening to Bad Books since they released their excellent debut LP back in 2010, so its great to finally see them live. Tonight’s brief but engaging set mainly focuses tracks from the bands second LP, with a few choice cuts from their excellent debut. To me it seems that the Manchester Orchestra boys are pacing themselves by not going too crazy on stage but Kevin Devine pogo’s around the stage, bumping into members of the band and really helps deliver the urgency of ¬†songs like ‘Wouldn’t Have To Ask’ and the quick fire wig out in ‘Holding Down The Laughter’. It’s a strong start to the evening.

Kevin Devine takes a quick brief water break and comes back on stage, still looking a bit sweaty from his last set, but plays with the upmost energy, playing tune after tune in a quick succession giving his songs a much more punk rock swagger in this full band environment. Him and his Goddamn Band mainly focus on tracks from one of two records he released last year, Bubblegum which is a just a great set of instant punk rock songs, but also treats the crowd to fan favourite ‘Cotton Crush’ and closes on an epic, always emotional rendition of ‘Brothers Blood’. Kevin Devine is a superb performer with an arsenal of hits, and although I do love his acoustic shows, having a full band really up’s his stage presence and is an absolute joy to watch.

Finally we get to our headliners Manchester Orchestra, a band who I love even more every time I hear a new record or see them live. The sound men at The Ritz have done the old school trick of turning down the support bands so the headline act can sound the loudest. And my lord they are loud. The big snarling riff of ‘Pride’ opens proceedings and the quintet don’t really slow down until mid set, ploughing through big, bold renditions of tracks from their four album career. It’s always great to see a band still very much submersed in their songs, as all five members jump around the stage and head bang frantically, particularly keyboard player Chris, who is a pleasure to watch as he throws himself around his fortress of keyboards.

Of course tonight is all part of touring cycle for their new record Hope, a huge sounding rock record full of planet sized guitars and universe sized choruses. We do get a nice little chunk of the new record, its title track make ears bleed with a monster riff and single ‘Every Stone’ offering a super catchy chorus. After a beautiful, perfectly harmonised version of the stripped back ‘Deer’, the band exit the stage after front man Andy thanks everyone for their continued support and love for the city that he named his band after. The crowd are in well and truly in their palms. So, in one of the best encore ideas ever, Andy re-enters the stage with Kevin Devine and the pair rip through a wonderfully daft folk style cover of the Fresh Prince Of Bell Air theme. This show was building up to be a monster and everyone on the bill tonight has delivered fully. A seriously awesome evening of musicianship, songcraft and RIFFS!

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Benjamin Forrester

I joined the Silent Radio family near the very start of my move to Manchester in 2012 and I'm still having the best time! During my stay here I've been in two noisy bands, had a not so noisy solo project, made a zine, started a blog and started a radio show. It's been productive to say the least and it's all been intersperse with a shit load of gig going and beer drinking. I would love it if you followed me on twitter @dr_brainless for excitable tweets about playing, watching and living new music.