As much as I love spending time looking for the next big thing, trying to find something new and important amongst the endless list of releases spouted by record labels and music blogs, when it comes down to it, most people aren’t going to do anything new, at least not well. So what I ask of most of them is to at least try to do what has been done before in a really awesome way. So, for two packed shows, the members of Manchester Orchestra saw fit to come to Philadelphia to melt the faces of all of their fans and lay waste to all the naysayers that might be teetering on the edge of admitting that they one of the best rock bands right now.
I get where there may be some hesitation at first. Andy Hull has a voice that screams “emo band,” but if you get past the distinctive pitch, you’ll discover a pedal-to-the-metal band with anthemic tunes that sit nicely in a playlist with the likes of Foo Fighters, rather than some of the other contemporaries they are often associated with. They came out softly, a bit unexpected, keeping in the dark during a mostly solo rendition of “Deer” accented by screams from the crowd.
They declared that they were going to change things up a bit from night one, ensuring that repeat offenders would not see the same show twice. Then they exploded into a 14-song set that included piercing epics like “Pride” and “I’ve Got Friends,” which guaranteed more than one person would be sore the next day, as well as anthemic newcomers “Top Notch” and the slightly gentler “Cope” from their newest album, named after the last named. While brief on conversation, even skipping the standard encore break (I hate encores, earned or not), they were not short on energy for any of the set. Though not the final song, the evening built to and culminated with the fiery “Virgin,” which could have been the only song they played for the whole night and I would have been satisfied.
It’s also worth noting that this was an expertly crafted show by all involved. From the sound engineers to the lighting, it looked and sounded perfect. There are usually enough unknowns to throw a few hiccups in, but this was truly a flawless performance by all involved. I tried desperately to make it in time to see both openers, but a prior engagement forced me to miss Kevin Devine, which I sincerely regret. Balance and Composure always put on a good set, and this time was no exception. Toeing a fine line between alt-rock and shoegaze, there is something both very British and yet still so American about their live sound that I can’t put my finger on, but I really enjoy. It was a good night for rock n roll.