Manchester Orchestra – SWG3, 12th April 2014 (live review)

Hidden-away locale SWG3 plays host to what is an intimate treat for many as Sydney troupe Gang Of Youths present themselves to an already buzzing audience. Their set of atmospheric rock tunes appears to go down well, sounding tight and like a band worthy of filling the room themselves.

Manchester Orchestra soon wander onstage, unassuming and not particularly suggestive of a band capable of playing rooms two or three times the size of this evening’s cosy venue. Unsurprisingly, they only need to let their music do the talking – launching into a furious rendition of Shake It Out, the Atlanta indie-rock outfit is thrilling to watch. A powerhouse of sound as they make their way through a fair balance of fan favourites and new material, their songs pack a punch in a live setting that is less evident on record. Andy Hull said of the band’s latest release, COPE, that they sought to create ‘something that’s just brutal and pounding you over the head’; whether or not they achieved that is up for debate, but in the live environment they really deliver on their promise. The newer tracks slot in well with the old, with songs like The Ocean, Top Notch and Every Stone transferring so effectively to the live setting that they prove themselves to be show highlights. The band can slow down for a bit of a breather for staple track Colly Strings, Andy Hull’s distinctive tones reaching across the low ceiling just as every person in the room seems to know when to chime in, ‘don’t stop calling, you’re the reason I love losing sleep’. The band is personable with the crowd between songs, clearly comfortable in the close quarters.

Before heading off-stage for an encore, Manchester Orchestra close the main body of the set with an almost ethereal cover of Willie Nelson’s The Party’s Over. At one point the lights are turned out, as the song requests, and the microphone is turned to point into the crowd. It’s not necessary, really, as the fans sing loud enough to reassure the band they’ll be welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd at the ABC come October.

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