Words by Alexandra Johnson
The best thing about Manchester Orchestra is that they don’t just write songs — they practically breed them. Through conception of living, breathing musical-spawns of their own inner, self-questioning bellows, these Atlanta folk are never void of a fresh, emotion-evoking sound.
Engulfing the 140 year old theatre with the booming hollers and thunderous claps of a crowd unified in anticipation, Manchester Orchestra opened the show with “Pride” off their latest album, Mean Everything to Nothing. The song’s thrashing drum beats and heavy guitar sound reminded the ears in their path of the intensity and musical-vigor that rendered them hooked on arrival. As they flowed through the subdued cadence and grungy vocals of “100 Dollars”, their set was plagued with bouts of technical roadblocks, but the guys did not falter. Keeping high energy and positivity, they buried the tech-problems and stood proudly at the foot of the freshly turned soil they threw overtop.
Hull’s hypnotizing vocal abilities shone from behind his thickset beard on a mesmerizing rendition of Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend”, a segue into Manchester’s “In My Teeth”, which battles between heartbeat-reminiscent drum sequences and spells of raw guitar resonance. A few songs in, Manchester introduced a new track, a potential tenant of their in-the-works, third studio recorded album. Fan-dubbed as “April Fools”, Hull and keyboardist/percussionist Chris Freeman jokingly bantered about their latest set list inhabiter.
“It could totally suck,” Freeman laughed. “But, I like it,” Hull fired back.
The percussion-demanding sound of Manchester’s freshest orchestrations challenged fill-in drummer Len Clark’s (Coulour Revolt) amalgamation with the band, to which he came out victorious.
With the step-down of the band’s previous drummer, Jeremiah Edmond, earlier this year, Manchester has locked Clark and Ben Homola (drum tech for Brand New) to fill in for separate stretches of their current tour. Freeman accompanied Clark on a second drum set in this guitar driven, vocally gritty track. You could hear the passion and emotional relevance in Hull’s harmonious vocal arrangements. The enthusiastic sea of faces filled the room with sounds of reassurance that fizzled out any uncertainties that Freeman vocalized. The new song embodied a strong reassurance that the boys of Manchester are keeping with the same sound that has catapulted them into global recognition, even with the still-uncertain fate of the group’s permanent line up.
Hull’s tone was as sharp as a knife as he reverberated the cleansing poetic content of “The River” that is cutting enough to pierce straight through the soul. The crowd clamored the words that consumed them, nearly drowning Hull’s strident delivery of the slightly transformed lyrical content. Clark and Freeman collided against the drums with a tenacity you could feel in the possessive vibrations that freed themselves through the floor beneath the beat-tapping feet.
A darkened, slowed-tempo version of “The Only One” followed. Initially void of drums, Hull howled over the sedative guitar rendition, sporadically stepping back from the mic and allowing the crowd to take over as he roared the lyrics, unrestrained and out of reach. As the song progressed, the drums took over and the guitar rhythms amplified, trading off the tame for the familiar surging thrash of the rampant track.
An extended display of I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child’s “Where Have You Been” infused the Trocadero with rhythmic life as members from The Features, O’ Brother and Biffy Clyro flooded the stage and tandemly pounded out the percussions of the track. With seven people banging on the drums, Hull and Freeman switched instruments. As Freeman fingered the guitar with ease, Hull sang from behind the kick drum. Over the thickened, intensified beat, Hull repeated the lyrics from Kevin Devine’s “You’ll Only End Up Joining Them”. As Hull regained his rightful place beneath his guitar strap, he dropped to his knees to finish off the momentous moment of the evening. Watching the relay of instruments mid-song, illustrated the precocious talents these guys truly exemplify.
As the opening notes of “Colly Strings” marked the onset of the finale, Hull’s grainy vocals released the lines he penned about him and his wife with an apparent honesty. Reworking some of the lyrics, once again proved that Hull’s songwriting is never consummated and his words are always interpreted through his most current emotions.
Playing ten minutes past the Trocadero’s usual musical cease-fire, Manchester Orchestra spent every minute proving themselves to a crowd who were already well-convinced. “Thank you for taking Michael Vick off our hands,” Hull laughed as he faded off the stage, leaving only a ring in the ears of a satisfied crowd of fans who seemingly hungered for more, more, more. If the Philadelphia show proved anything about Manchester Orchestra, it is that their musical arsenal is well-equipped to bring the people what they want.
TheWaster.com | Philly