On The List :: Manchester Orchestra @ Mercury Lounge [3.04.09]

Playing showcases put on by your record label is always a little weird. If you were a chef and the owner of your restaurant asked you to cook for his kid's birthday party, for free, part of you would be flattered. Part of you might think: well, I don't have a choice, do I? So if Manchester Orchestra is feeling a little put on, they don't show it. And why would they? They have a great record coming out in six weeks, a national tour that will bring them to your backyard, and a live show that could, as I quoted in a text message during the show, "melt your face."

But before you go out to conquer the country, you play a small club show. Try out the new songs. Feel out the crowd. Rip on your industry people on their Blackberrys in the back of the room. If their shirt is tucked in, they're probably working for the label - good rule of thumb. The set-list is tight, predictable and moving. "100 Dollars" is arguably more impressive in-person. Album single, "I've Got Friends" starts slow but ends up with the screaming title pathos, "I've got friends in all the right places." The front row is full of the most serious fans. This is a rare opportunity to see a big band in a small club. They absolutely will document this.

"I've Got Friends" (live)

Lead singer, Andy Hull has a flair for the dramatic. He closes with "I Can Feel A Hot One," a song ostensibly about sexual awkwardness, unexpected pregnancy, and love. Bluntly, it is a crusher. He is almost alone on stage as the the crowd sings the final strains of melody. Hull backs from the mic, continuing to sing, and hangs his guitar. A sideways glance, an aside to no one, and a muttered,"thanks." I've seen him do this exit before. It's no less moving the second time. This kid is the real deal. On someone else it would feel contrived or stupidly theatrical. On him, this departure, quiet and real, feels important and forthright. Kind of like the album. Kind of like this band. Honestly.

No comments: