[Above: Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull]
Onstage, Manchester Orchestra mixes the captivating vocals and compelling arrangements of its records with hardcore guitar and screaming, as lead singer Andy Hull abandons his sweet, high tenor for larynx-wrenching wails. I could listen to his on-record singing voice for hours and be happier for it, but last night all I could think was what a shame it was.
Maybe I'm being unfair: As a newcomer to the band, I haven't had the
opportunity to fall in love with its older material the way so many of
my fellow Atlantans have. Last night's audience boasted plenty of
devoted fans, with pauses between songs finding the room in a hush
quieter than a packed bar should be. No one spoke. And Manchester was
expert at manipulating the crowd's rapt emotion, working it into a
hypnotic frenzy and making sure its energy rode on the band's musical
waves. But I got the sense I was one of the only people in the room not
Simiarly, the opening act, the
Brooklyn-based band Lowry, toyed with the crowd. The five-piece
followed stunning sequences of drawn-out dissonance and synth reverb
with relatively unremarkable folk rock songs; every time they started
to spin out and ramp up the volume, my breath would catch in my chest
and I'd be captivated. Then they'd turn back toward their ordinary
fare. (Not to mention, their vocalist's similarity to the Decemberists'
Colin Meloy left me reeling throughout the set.)
emotions, the Manchester wore its influences on its collective sleeve.
Before one song, Hull announced, “We are aware that this song sounds a
lot like Nirvana.” Before another: “This sounds like a Built To Spill
song.” He also announced that the set was all new material, perhaps
from their Oct. 14 EP Let My Pride Be What's Left Behind or from the
forthcoming Mean Everything to Nothing LP (which they announced would
hopefully come out in February 2009).
Still, the night wasn't
without its high points-- namely, the between-song banter among the
Manchester bandmates and the audience. In one telling moment, Hull
attempted to re-tune after a false start. "This is tuned to C# minor.
Do you know what that means?” he asked. “That's the shit the hardcore
bands play. And I'm trying to be sensitive, god-dammit!”
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