Manchester Orchestra at SWG3, 12/4/14

They may “never have played at this venue before” but Manchester Orchestra proves, as their riffs reverberate off the cold brick walls and through the archway’s pores, that this really is irrelevant.

Cathartic and effortless, their no frills but plenty of thrills approach, all at once commands the crowd gathered in one of Glasgow’s notoriously gritty haunts.

 

Each crescendo punctuated by melancholic musings that bounce off the disco ball hanging precariously from the ceiling.

SWG3 speaks volumes of a city not known for its airs and graces, but for its raw reception of ingenuity; found in even the most covert of places.

Just off the banks of the Clyde, the motorway roaring past, trains rumbling overhead; warm bodies swarm inside to escape the icy gusts and ‘shake it out’ in the bowels of this venue’s underbelly.

Brave and perplexing, the group originates neither from Manchester or any orchestral beginnings.

Growing up recording in a basement north of Atlanta, Georgia, the quintet’s connection is blatant to even the most recent of devotees, but the ability to get lost in their meaty yet sorrowful reflections is exhausted by die hard fans who cling on to every syllable.

That bond is stripped back in latest album, Cope, which revitalises the band’s punchier roots and sets them alight, tonight is no exception, shrouded in strobe lights frontman Andy Hull frantically moves from track to track with vocals that pulsate a powerful sense of urgency.

The lethargic glow of the sky’s full moon seeping through a battered windowpane in the corner is, in a flash, surmounted by keyboardist Chris Freeman’s energetic and impulsive swaying; up and down, back and forth.

It’s impossible not to realise why this gig sold out rapidly, they are impeccable live, the sort of delirium that can only be truly felt by throwing your body forward on an overcrowded, dirty floor.

The frenzy dies down, after opening with a perfectly constructed feet mover, to encompass the spine-tingling ‘I Can Barely Breath’, tracks like this (including ‘Simple Math’ and ‘I Can Feel a Hot One’) are unassumingly slotted in to an otherwise roaring setlist.

Hull succinctly sums it up as a hot mist engulfs the pounding heart beats in the room: “I always like when the fog machines come on, yeah, let’s drift away.”

But don’t be fooled, the silence embodied in a river of electric blue lights, is swiftly replaced by the fire of people who undoubtedly do have ‘friends in all the right places’ and aren’t afraid to jump around to the infectious beat infused in synth undertones.

There’s an unspoken respect among an audience quick to mosh during the fast-paced choruses, but slowly sensitive to the lyrics; in a way that offers up a melodic unison.

‘100 Dollars’ and a number of strained “I am fine” chants later and the night is thoroughly under way, the group’s versatility dangling in the air, reticent openings launched into spectacularly deafening heights, who cares if they don’t always get it right?

Yet, un-paralleled to the raucous reveling often experienced within the indie-rock genre, fans collectively utter “shhh, shhh” in between songs, much to the amusement of the lads on stage who confirm that “it’s great to be back”.

Unrelenting and unapologetic, the audience is left wanting more, carrying out with them the intoxicating echo of primal screams and white noise.

It’s that feeling of having witnessed something rough, ready, raw and refreshingly on the outskirts of the mainstream.

Whatever Manchester Orchestra lack in variety they make up for in unpretentious, sheer intensity and if tonight is anything to go by, their future musical trajectory will solidify just that.

Words/photos: Lucy Sharladow

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