Half Moon Run

Half Moon Run

 – GORILLA, MANCHESTER –

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two years since I last saw Half Moon Run, as they became the first act to headline Manchester’s newly refurbished Albert Hall in November 2013. Back then, their debut album Dark Eyes was barely off my playlist and it was easily my favourite album of that year. Two years later and they’re back in Manchester to play a sold out Gorilla, less than a week after the release of second album Sun Leads Me On. I haven’t yet been properly acquainted with the new album, but I’m looking forward to getting to know it this evening.

I enter the warm room and find a spot under one of the ceiling mounted fans, ensuring easy access to the bar while I wait for the music to begin. First up tonight is Emilie and Ogden, a “duo” from Montreal. The Ogden of this “duo” is not a person but a harp, and in addition to Emilie and Ogden there are also two other musicians on stage. I’m disappointed by the obscene level of talking in the room, it seems loud chatter can easily drown out the sound of a harp. This means the most enjoyable parts of the set are the moments when the driving bass and drums take over and the music finally overpowers the talking.

The headline act arrive on stage only 15 minutes after the scheduled start time. They get the set started with ‘Turn Your Love’, followed immediately by ‘I Can’t Figure Out What’s Going On’, both from the new album. It’s the third track of the performance that finally gets the crowd going, the hypnotic bass booms and the natural reverb in the room emphasises it as ‘Nerve’ captures the attention of everyone. The annoyances caused by the chatter fade away as the song reminds me exactly why I loved the debut album so much.

Another track from the debut album, ‘Unofferable’, is next up before the main lights go down and four column lights at the back of the stage begin to flash and the drums take the lead of the next track ‘It Works Itself Out’. Not long into the song a second drum kit also kicks in as lights spread all over the stage begin to flash creating a strobe effect. This is the first of the new album tracks that really grabs me, it’s great.

On the next track ‘Hands In The Garden’ they stick with two drummers, but the drums are not quite as dominate in the song. Then on ‘Call Me In The Afternoon’, the band’s second single from the debut album, frontman Devon Portielje also joins in with drumming, taking the drummer count to three. It’s definitely the tracks with lots of percussion that are the most grabbing of the set so far and seem to really define the Half Moon Run sound.

A few songs later there’s a change in tack, “I know you guys are enthusiastic in the north country, but this requires some quiet” says Portielje. Cue shushes from crowd as ‘Devil May Care’ begins with audible chatter. This quieter song is played with just the use of an acoustic guitar, a tenor resonator guitar (which is from 1929 and “must have been kept in a closet” because it’s in such good condition) and a harmonica accompanying the vocals. As is so often the case when a band plays a quieter track, a massive cheer greets its end. The resonator guitar stays for next track ‘Everybody Wants’, but electric guitar, drums and bass return it as the volume is cranked back up.

With the set approaching a close, a repeating snare hit and single repeating keyboard note signal the instantly recognisable ‘She Wants To Know’. The crowd becomes fully engaged again. The band follow up with ‘Consider Yourself’ and then leave the stage. They aren’t gone long enough to even have had themselves a drink of water before they’re back to play ‘Full Circle’. They then exit the stage once again to huge applause.

A few people start to filter out, but the people right down the front demand more, by actually chanting “we want more”. The band return again and play ‘Trust’ followed by Bob Dylan cover ‘I Shall Be Released’. The number of instruments on stage for a 4-piece band tonight was remarkable. Each member had a keyboard, three of four had drums and numerous guitars and basses were floating around for good measure. There were 18 songs in total, including both encores, another impressive count for a band with only two albums. I really enjoyed the performance, especially the tracks with lots of percussion. I’d have liked a number of the other people in attendance to have shut up, but I can definitely recommend getting out to see Half Moon Run if you get the chance.

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Adam Smith

There is nothing I'd rather be doing with my evenings than watching excellently crafted live music. In fact, there isn't much I'd rather be doing than watching half-decent live music. Having too often seen excellent bands fail to garner the attention I believe they deserve, I'm here to spread the good word of the under-appreciated musical performer. I encourage everyone who is reading this to do the same.