Manchester Orchestra have always been a band that defied genre definitions. Indie-rock, definitely, with elements of 00s emo and alternative, yet, the band are considerably more interesting than many of their counterparts in those scenes. With heart wrenching lyrics set amidst typical heavy riffs and drum patterns, Manchester Orchestra erupted into public consciousness from their Atlanta, Georgia base in 2006 with debut album I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child.
Friday 23rd of October was the band’s first performance in Leeds since 2014, fittingly at the city’s newest and already most revered live music venue, Church. Opening with ‘The Maze’ from 2017’s A Black Mile to the Surface, the band’s melancholy sound echoed around the cavernous converted church, bursts of green and blue light dappling off the stained glass windows that serve as a constant reminder of the venue’s rich history – excluding its stint in recent years at Leeds’s messiest club and student haven, Halo, of course.
The audience is varied, ranging from the expected bearded and tattooed Breton-tee wearing males, to groups of girls with bowl cuts and Doc Martens to elderly bikers and PDA-loving couples. The latter are predominant, with one couple standing particularly close to me engaging in a kind of Titanic-reminiscent embrace whilst the girl stood sobbing at ‘The Alien’.
‘Simple Math’, from the band’s same-titled third studio album, is introduced to the spellbound crowd by lead vocalist Andy Hall with an anecdote regarding his last time in Leeds; after the band’s show in 2014, he proceeded to get drunk in the city centre and fall flat down the stairs in the Grand Arcade’s Santiago bar. Elated with this slice of information from their apparent hero, a group of boys in the crowd begin to shout “Andy loves Yorkshire! Andy Hall loves Yorkshire!” which results in no more than a confused nod from the vocalist.
A personal highlight was definitely ‘Colly Strings’, a slow and melodic offering that perfectly breaks up the more urgent and heavy riffs and basses of the rest of the set list. ‘Colly Strings’, the final song on the band’s debut album, is one of those tracks that perfectly blends indie guitar riffs with heartbreaking lyrics (“confessingly, this is the first time I’ve loved you, / and God, I mean, God I mean it, I hope that I mean it”), almost orchestral in sound and the perfect accompaniment to any break-up, hangover or entire freezing winter season.
Manchester Orchestra finish their set with fan favourites ‘I Can Feel A Hot One’ and ‘The Silence’, the perfect end to a spellbinding night that displays the power of a live venue as ethereal and fantastic as Church, and the immense power great indie rock music can possess. Angry, passionate and ultimately uniting, the band’s performance will certainly be remembered as one of the most moving and beautiful gigs I’ve ever attended during my four years of living in Leeds.
Words by Poppie Platt
Images by India Lacey