Manchester Orchestra @ Metro, Chicago, IL

Live Reviews | By on Mar 25th, 2010

Date: February 23rd 2010
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Manchester Orchestra’s two full lengths I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child (2006) and Mean Everything to Nothing (2009) are a collection of desperate, at times frantic, and stirring songs. Singer/songwriter Andy Hull seems to have an innate ability to tap into the pain, loss, and hope that depression brings. The last time I had the opportunity to catch Manchester Orchestra was at Lollapalooza 2009. The group played to a few dozen people just after noon with gray skies and rain. That atmospheric performance seemed almost too fitting, too perfect, and too sad.

Yet, Tuesday night’s performance at the Metro could be described as nothing less than rousing. Displaying their cathartic form of bluesy Southern rock, Manchester Orchestra was on full display and proud to be. Hull along with Robert McDowell on guitar and vocals, Jonathan Corley on bass, and Chris Freeman on keyboards, vocals, additional percussion all make up this Atlanta outfit. Tuesday night they were joined with their current touring drummer Len Clark on loan from Colour Revolt.

Shortly after the start of their set, Hull addressed the crowd and said they were “very, very privileged” to play the Metro. The history of the venue as well as the bands that have come across that stage (fellow Georgians R.E.M. being the first) is well known and Hull mentioned that as he spoke. All throughout the night, Hull took the opportunity to thank the crowd, the town, and the venue for having them. The performance matched that proud and grateful demeanor.

Manchester Orchestra’s entire performance Tuesday night clearly portrayed a sound that is more than that their albums. The night’s performance consisted of Hull constantly pushing his rogue hair out of his face and his body trembling as if possessed by the music. “I Can Barely Breathe” was particularly fierce with the entire band showing vigor. The ending to “My Friend Marcus” could be described as nothing less than lovely and a welcoming calm during the strident set. The title track off Mean Everything To Nothing was more proud and a haughty, and a perfect depiction of the entire performance. Each song had a fuller sound, almost anthemic and echoed the sound of a past decade.

Forgoing an encore and just playing through to the end, Manchester Orchestra closed their set with the heartfelt “I Can Feel a Hot One.” The quiet solitude felt from their albums did not come until then. With the lights dimmed low, the crowd was given an intimate performance. Finishing just before Chicago’s strict 10 pm all ages curfew, Hull told the crowd “we’ll be back and thanks again…Have a great night,” and left the stage at 9:59 pm.


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