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Black Country New Road/Famous at Yes Manchester (02/10/19) – Live Review

Photo Credit: Milly Schofield

From the strength of two singles alone, ‘Black Country New Road’ sell out the basement at Yes. Not that they seem all that concerned about it. Their entrance was casual. They neglected the stage door completely. Instead they carried their instruments (and beverages) through the crowd, in numerous journeys. They quietly gave their polite “excuse me’s” to audience members. That was all as far as communication went.

Opening for ‘Black Country, New Road’ are ‘Famous’ a three piece consisting of Bass, drums and Vocals. When you sound like a 1979 Iggy Pop there is nothing to complain about. Well, except for the amounts of saliva the lead singer got in my hair. The band are a destructive bunch. The face of an audience member was a picture when their pint was almost knocked over by the leads foot.

The band stared chosen members of the audience down while giving eccentric rambles about marriage and wanting to “crawl inside of you”. The bass at times got nonsensical and the punk aesthetic was excellent and it will be interesting to see where they go from here. The only downfall and (to nitpick) was them playing already recorded instruments through a speaker.

Black Country New Road follow. The members of the band claustrophobically fit on the small stage. They remove their jackets and pile them up between the monitors (again having no use for the backstage area). Their mic-ing is unique. They use no kick mic for example, along with Woods vocal mic being placed stage left rather than central, something i thought wouldn’t sound great, yet was proven wrong. These lot know what they’re doing.

Their set (of mostly unreleased material) was an eclectic journey. Jazz, Post Punk, Spoken Word, Experimental, No Wave and Vaudeville Music all combined in a pallet. Something we need in the draught of middle of the road “indie” and repetitive pop. Thank You.

Evans makes his sax sing in an incredible free jazz solo right from the first track. There is a tense feel to their music that is complimented by the guitar tones. Not unlike the tones on a Velvet Underground record. Big thumbs up from me. Ellery’s violin playing is diverse, at times it is so vigorous that her bow starts to fall apart, while at others it’s slow and serene, sometimes picked. Wayne’s drumming is heavily rhythmic and at times tribal leading the other members to battle. Hyde’s bass lines are jagged, yet catchy (especially on ‘Athens, France‘. Brilliant). Then there are Kershaw’s futuristic keys that are textural and give a dark moodiness to the music.

Photo Credit: Milly Schofield

The lyrics are highly descriptive in the way that could rival a Mishima novel. Catching the occasional new lyrics from under the speakers intrigued me. “…but as i slowly sobered i felt the rubbing of shoulders. I smelt the sweat and the children crying. I was just one among towelling stairs”. This storytelling is supported by ambitious passages and diversions that are epic. It is like progressive rock but better. Wood’s vocal is shaky and so are his movements. His constant eye rolls are not unlike Ian Curtis. He sounds like a man explaining a murder he witnessed second hand to the police.

If the band haven’t sold you by those tracks then they will on the instrumental cuts they play. They are like something out of an ancient vaudeville theatre production. These tracks are a hypnotising Russian like journey that could have gone on for the whole hour. I wouldn’t have complained. It felt very strange seeing an audience mosh to this type of music.

As the band play recently released ‘Sunglasses’, the audience outsing the sax melody. This is 120 people! Reminder that this track has only been out for 2 months. What will it be like when a year old?

This performance has made me (and doubtless many others) incredibly excited for the future of this band. Definitely not one to let slip under the radar.