Manchester Orchestra at House of Blues, 4/21/2014
Photos by Jim Bricker
Manchester Orchestra House of Blues April 21, 2014
Sometimes a band just floors you. They leave you crawling away from the venue without the ability to walk, think, talk or use your major motor functions for a period of time. While such an aural assault doesn't happen that often, when it does you know the band did its job.
That happened last night, when a rather large Monday evening crowd gathered at House of Blues to witness seemingly everyone there's favorite band, Manchester Orchestra. Their set was as much raucous and loud as it was soft and endearing, but throughout the night there was never a dull moment.
Hitting stage right around 9:30 p.m., the Atlanta indie-rockers wasted no time pounding everyone in the room with their in-your-face guitars and beating drums. The energy and effort alone from each and every member was enough to rowdy up the crowd, and the songs were just extra at that point.
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Which, I guess isn't quite right to say, as their songs were definitely on-point. Their delivery is just what sold me by the end of the night.
"Don't let our lack of speaking signify that we're not fucking stoked to be here," shouted lead vocalist Andy Hull after about six songs into the set, marking their first words to the uber-attentive crowd jammed from the front to the back. Not that the band didn't want to talk, they were just so into what they were delivering to the audience that they didn't even think to say hello.
And for good reason. The first five or six songs, including my new favorite tune "Pale Black Eye," were incredible, pulling in those towards the back who might not be too familiar with the group's music. By the time they got through "The Ocean," a track from 2014's highly lauded effort Cope, they certainly had everyone in the room's full attention.
It was as heavy and rock and roll as an indie band can get before they start to cross-pollinate with metal, but at times was as quiet and beautiful as your most delicate Mountain Goats or Death Cab For Cutie songs. At times Hull's voice even sounded much like John Darnielle or Ben Gibbard, a wavering, higher-pitched near-whine that fit perfectly over the heavier music that served as its background.
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Among a sea of beards and head-bobbing, fist-pumping and shout-alongs accompanied almost every track. "Pensacola" had the crowd buzzing towards the beginning, while "Pride" kept it going. A brief acoustic interlude, including some humorous anecdotes on dead babies, found Hull letting out all of his emotions on a song written about his wife, "Colly Strings" before the band returned and made it a rock show again.
To close the set, a unique take on Willie Nelson's "The Party's Over," which could've been mistaken for a Band of Horses song to the untrained ear, was interpolated with a few lines from "No Children," by the aforementioned Mountain Goats whom were an obvious influence to the decade old band. With a four-song encore to close, including their most well-known song "Simple Math," they left no room for their fans to walk out after the performance with any sort of disappointment.
Their presence in Houston will be assuredly missed until the next time they step foot in town, but with the new record fresh out, and the amount of energy and love that the crowd reciprocated throughout the evening, I'm sure it won't be long until their return.
Personal Bias: I've been following this band's rise since 2004, albeit not too closely. I went to Bonnaroo in 2003 and 2004, which is located in a small town called Manchester. For a couple of years, I thought they were from there and that it was cool that a band from such a small town could get so big so quickly. Turns out they're from Atlanta. Still a fucking great band.
The Crowd: Heavily bearded and really into everything going on onstage.
Overheard In the Crowd: At the beginning of the set, a young girl shouted out to Hull, "I love you Andy!!!!" His response was, "Love you too, mom!" Pretty funny way to begin the evening's banter.
Random Notebook Dump: The guy on the right of the stage that was rocking both keyboards and drums throughout the set, Chris Freeman I believe, was more passionate about the music he was making than anyone ever in life. He was really fun to watch.
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