Live Reviews

Manchester Orchestra – Live

Kevin Devine
ICA, London
21st July 2009

Kevin Devine is brilliant. He’s one of those acts that when you finally see live you wonder how you never realized this brilliance earlier. Devine’s acoustic offerings are translated impeccably in tonight’s setting and you could literally hear a pin drop as a rapt audience become involved in his heartfelt, sometimes political, always emotional and melodious songsmithery.

Manchester Orchestra‘s Andy Hull appears in dim but angelic lighting to one side of Devine in the middle of selected songs as he effortlessly adds his vocals to blend with Devine’s in a way that sounds so natural it’s almost as if he’s not there. Vocal excellence becomes par for the course tonight as Devine pulls away from the microphone as his voice becomes more intense to really create an intimate effect. The crowd may as well be round a campfire as stories are told and songs rolled out with a friendly and familiar manner.

Opening with some sort of ode to 50 Cent conveyed with ever-marvellous musicianship and following on with the quietness that has so far been the theme of the evening, Manchester Orchestra have the crowd chuckling from the outset yet there is a feeling of anticipation which is rewarded as the full force of this act to be reckoned with kicks in. Songs from the new record ‘Mean Everything To Nothing’ such as ‘Shake It Out’ and ‘The River’ shake through the venue with waves of intensity, the crowd relishing those softly softly moments every bit as much as the all-consuming loudness generated by supplementary drumming and full-on guitar assaults.

The ultimate catchiness of ‘I’ve Got Friends’ is likely to whirl around inside everybody’s brains for days to come after the band pick out the delicate opening riff with purpose and feeling every nuance as one unit. There really isn’t anything to fault with the sound at the venue this evening being super clear and emphasizing exactly how accomplished these guys are as songwriters and as musicians. Emo? Yes – after all, that term really only stands for emotional and that they are. But Manchester Orchestra are so much more than that and it’s always a joy to see a band take such care and pride in what they do yet be so humble and understated at the same time with riveting effect.

Winey G.