Mikal Cronin

Mikal Cronin


An immediate shock greets everybody that enters Sound Control tonight. The venue, utilised less and less by touring bands as its years drift by, has cordoned off its natural upstairs setting, and instead has compressed the night’s events into its downstairs bar area. Like others, my instinct is that this must be a mistake – how can the crowd be contained in this small space? Any such concern was never materialised. The crowd at its peak was still less than 50 people, a sorry crime considering that Cronin’s last album, MCII, received rightly rapturous reviews across the board only two years ago.

Whether the responsibility lies with the promoters or an inexplicable decline in Cronin’s appeal, the fault cannot be placed at the feet of either of tonight’s support acts. First comes Veronica Bianqui, who cheerfully encourages the few early arrivers to form a nascent crowd – she’s come all the way from Los Angeles after all. She announces that it is the first time she has performed solo for some time, but her songs are tightly formed, and her voice sears gracefully through the room. Her performance is cute and confident, and her song ‘Paris’, which she tributes to the victims of the hideous attacks of last week, steals the set.

Theo Verney’s three piece band play as though the crowd is either 20,000 or not there at all. From the first bar, they pulverise eardrums, clearly enjoying themselves no matter what. At one moment they channel a 1989 Mudhoney gig, at others they regress into glorious, swampy Black Sabbath riffage. The drummer is a frightening Dave Grohl doppelganger, and the bassist has the line of the night when frontman Theo complains about the intense front-of-stage spotlight: “Of course, you don’t like the spotlight – that’s why we are called Theo Verney”. The new EP Brain Disease captures their frenetic energy, and should be on your wish-list.

44 people are present in the crowd when Mikal Cronin’s band hit the stage – the heads are so few that I am able to count them. Cronin himself glares out under the same troublesome spotlight, either shielding his eyes or blinking in disbelief at the scale of the gathering. But as ‘Turn Around’, the lead track and highlight of new album MCIII kicks in, it becomes apparent that the novelty of tonight’s situation is in fact a positive. Everyone present has a direct eyeline with the stage, and is unafraid to show their appreciation.

Cronin himself is reminiscent of Elliott Smith, or a Duplass brother, but give him half a chance to rip into a solo and he becomes a classic rock figure. Tracks from the new album soar (particularly ‘Feel Like’) but it is the previous album’s songs that bring about the giddiest responses. ‘Weight’, ‘Shout It Out’ and ‘See It My Way’ are all viscerally exciting. Who wouldn’t snatch the chance to see one of the best albums of recent years performed live in such a bizarrely intimate setting before them?

By the time they play a single-song encore of ‘Change’, the surreality of the day has become the very reason that this gig will live long in the memory. There is a bizarre understanding shared by the criminally few present that this is in fact one of the best live music experiences of 2015. If so few in Manchester really are aware of the joy of Mikal Cronin then that is a shame, but rest assured that the 44 present will be spreading the word far and wide.

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Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.