This was my first time seeing the band, as I’m a relatively new convert to the Church of Manchester. Their newest album, Simple Math, is easily one of my favorite records of the year thus far, and to see half of those new songs played was a treat.
But first, the openers. This tour stop was part of Manchester’s current tour with Kentucky lads Cage the Elephant, but sadly Cage wasn’t part of the Music Box show…presumably because the band just played Coachella in April. Goldenvoice makes Coachella bands sign contracts restricting bands from playing the LA area for a while, so that probably explains why Cage wasn’t there on Thursday.
Because of their absence, local unsigned band Twilight Sleep kicked off the night with atmospheric, synthed-out tunes. They weren’t spectacular but they weren’t terrible, either. They’ll probably catch on sometime soon with the Silver Lake crowd.
Next up was Sleeper/Agent, but the rambunctious music they delivered was anything but sleepy. The band’s bluesy stomp of Southern-inspired rock reminded me of Cage the Elephant.
When energetic vocalist Alex “Kidd” Kandel asked midway through the set if anyone in the crowd had been to Kentucky, I realized they’re buddies with Cage, and suddenly everything made sense.
Kandel has a stage presence beyond her years, and her powerful voice matched up perfectly with the band’s guitar wailing and tight, crisp rhythms. Their debut full-length album, Celabrasion, will be out on August 16th, so hopefully that means they’ll be back again to the LA area soon. Check out their Facebook page to find out more about them, like the fact that they all have sweet nicknames.
Around 9:50, Manchester Orchestra hit the stage. The sold-out crowd swooned with anticipation as the Atlanta dudes came out and went into opening song Simple Math, the title track of the new album. The fans screamed out lyrics along with rhythm guitarist and singer Andy Hull passionately, turning a slow-burn type of song into a powerful, mesmerizing set-opener.
The rest of the show followed suit, with fans exploding with excitement for songs from all throughout the band’s career, including cuts from 2006’s I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child (I Can Barely Breathe, Where Have You Been?, Colly Strings and show-closer Now That You’re Home). The set list alternated between albums seamlessly, without any of that unfamiliarity that sometimes goes along with a band playing new songs. Everyone here was here for Manchester, and everyone here knew all the songs. It was great.
One thing that was unexpected, at least by me at my first Manchester show, was how they speed up some of the songs live. I noticed this the most during the Simple Math tunes, as April Fool, Pale Black Eyes, Virgin (which is one of my favorite songs of 2011 so far) and older tune I’ve Got Friends all were all played slightly faster than they are on the record. It didn’t bother me for most of them, but considering how much I love the slow, ominous feel of Virgin on the album, it bummed me out a bit that the band played it so quickly. It didn’t take away from the show too bad, but I wasn’t expecting it going into the show.
The band also played a short new song called Bananas that sounded straight out of the Pacific Northwest. Its aggressive, punchy grunge feel was a change of pace from the usual quiet-soft slow-midtempo feel of most of their other songs. It was great, and I’m curious to hear a studio version at some point.
After the last song of the encore, Now That You’re Home, Hull took the time to earnestly thank us for “choosing to come watch our band”. He seemed genuinely humbled and taken aback by the crowd’s fervor and outpouring of love all night, which is always great to see at a show. Any band that delivers a crisp, perfect evening of music like that deserves the love.
It was a fantastic night of music at a great venue, and I’m glad to finally have caught Manchester Orchestra live. There are a lot of bands currently around that impress me in concert, but few do so to that level. Virgin is one of my top records of 2011, and seeing half of those songs live made them even better. I hope the band gets more and more attention in the future, as there are few bands that deserve it more.
Manchester Orchestra's set list:
Everything To Nothing
I Can Barely Breathe
My Friend Marcus
Pale Black Eye
I've Got Friends
Shake It Out
Where Have You Been?
Now That You're Home
Below are some pictures, with my apologies that they aren't very crisp. One of these days I need to get a real concert-ready camera.