The Manichean Alley Theatre June 28, 2013
The Manichean doesn't do half-assed. From their albums to their performance, everything is a piece to the part of a puzzle, as seen Friday night, when the Houston band performed their latest album, Lovers, at The Alley Theatre. Though it was their second performance of Lovers in the Alley's intimate space (the last one was in July 2012), the room was nearly full. With the lights dimmed and white noise whispering through the speakers, the band -- Justice Tirapelli-Jamail, Sean Spiller, Dylan Tirapelli-Jamail and Ash BigCash -- walked onto the floor amid cheers, with an additional four-piece backing orchestra.
It wasn't until after the group began playing and singer Cory Sinclair, who acted as one of the lovers around whom the album is based, made an entrance from the front of the room.
Lovers revolves around the theme of limerence, or, the state of being in love. According to the playbill, which featured an entire explanation of the term, limerence was coined in 1977 by psychologist Dorothy Tennov, and describes "an involuntary state of mind resulting from romantic attraction to another person once combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to having one's feelings reciprocated."
Though it sounds tiring to explain and possibly understand, The Manichean found a way to bring limerence alive.
This doesn't come as a surprise. The group is known for their conceptual albums, and their clear direction and understanding of one another seems to push their performance away from that of a rock band into that of a band of artists.
Sinclair, known for his intense, passion-filled performances, was nothing short of perfect for the role of a heartbroken lover, who was pining over the affections of "her," portrayed by The Tontons' Asli Omar.
Because Lovers is a story told using spoken word and song, Sinclaire captivated the audience as he shifted his emotions throughout the performance.
The story, which was split into two acts began with a well-dressed band in darker colors. Sinclair's focus was fixed on Omar, who appeared on the handcrafted stage in a white dress during "Fits of Chemistry."
The story and stage were bursting with life during "Laughter (Sigh)," when Sinclair and Omar began dancing around one another, tossing rose petals in the air. However, the happiness didn't last long before The Great Sparrow, played by Tyagaraja, emerged to take Omar away.
But although Sinclair's performance as a singer and lead actor of sorts were the main focal point of the evening, the performance would not have been what it was had the band not been so in tune with one another.
From start to finish, the group was so flawless it's a wonder if they've ever had an off night. Things truly began to pick up during "Orchids I," and with Omar's absence, the band told the story through sound in a way that so many others have tried and failed to do.
Instead of playing a soundtrack for the story, The Manichean acted as an extension of Sinclair's actions, thoughts and feelings. While it seems like a given, it's not necessarily true.
Not many bands could muster up the material, talent and energy to pull off a conceptual album as strong as Lovers. Even fewer bands could pull off the same elegant display of what it means to be inspired; to take a thought or a feeling and turn it into a story that should be experienced over and over again.
After intermission (and a performance from Two Star Symphony), The Manichean picked up where they left off.
Sinclair's dark, desperation kept viewers were on the edges of their seats, watching as he fell apart in agony. And though his love for Omar was fictional, Sinclair committed to the role so much that it was felt throughout the performance.
Twice, the crowd erupted in cheers, which isn't customary for a performance that felt more like a musical or play. However, it was be hard to sit through Lovers and feel unmoved.
However, unlike their last performance, The Manichean performed "Lacerus" as an encore following the standing ovation they received once Lovers concluded. It was the only moment that felt like a rock band was performing, when nearly half the audience remained standing for the finale.
In just over two hours, The Manichean proved they aren't just another band from Houston. Instead, their talent crosses over into so many different territories that they have become a living, breathing testament to Houston's diverse cultural and art scene.
In so many ways, The Manichean doesn't need justification. To put it simply, they are one of Houston's gems.
Personal Bias: One of my favorite things about going out in Houston is spotting Justice. It sounds weird, but his cat goes with him on a leash and it's the coolest cat ever. The first time (and only) time I met Cory was at a Bayou Flesh reading last summer at Khon's, so I felt even more compelled to catch Lovers. Nice guy.
The Crowd: A genuine mixture. Everyone was pretty dressed up and seemed ready to party. It was nice to be at a concert for a local rock act where girls were in pretty dresses, heels and drinking during the show. There were some other locals in the crowd -- Chase Hamblin, Kitty Beebe and Kam Franklin were all spotted.
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Random Notebook Dump: I had a hard time finding someone to go with me to this show. In Houston's defense, Valient Thorr was in town. Regardless, I need to find friends who aren't so wary of bands I describe as "literary" and "conceptual."