Live Review: Manchester Orchestra

Where: House of Blues, Boston

When: November 12, 2011

Being the resourceful connoisseur of whiny music that I am, I first took note of Manchester Orchestra when they co-headlined a tour with Brand New two years ago. While I did not see them in that instance (I believe Glassjaw traded off performing duties with MO for their sold out Boston show), I did my fair share of legwork delving into their music catalogue, which wasn’t very extensive at the time. Their 2006 debut I’m Like A Virgin Losing a Child had the exterior of everything an indie rock band should be – emotionally decadent, instrumentally climatic, lyrically disturbing. But their 2009 followup, Mean Everything To Nothing had inklings of evolution, as tracks became less boppy and more bareboned – a trait that poured itself into Manchester Orchestra’s latest release from this year called Simple Math. And last night, to a nearly sold out crowd at House of Blues,  the band put their all into serving up a passionate and ultimately unforgettable performance.
Opening with the aggressively loud “April Fool,” 23-year-old frontman Andy Hull howled lyrics through a beard that could easily age him about 20 years. Keyboardist Chris Freeman also had some noticeable facial hair going on, prompting an audience member to yell out “shave it already” – to which Freeman retorted something along the lines of “shut the hell up.” MO’s frantic energy remained consistent as they tore through songs like “I’ve Got Friends,” “100 Dollars,” “Shake It Out,” and “The Only One.” But the mood quickly lulled as slower tunes such as “My Friend Marcus” and “Colly Strings” came to the frontfront, which even drove some pathetic fan to pull out a lighter. Amidst the fire and swaying, Hull remarked that it was “ridiculously stupid and amazing” that that many fans would join them that night. He was humbled by it, and even went on to call Boston a city that is very special to him. As the band approached their encore (in which Hull explained that they left the stage for a while because he needed to tie his shoe), they predictably performed their haunting and wildly successful current single “Virgin,” the kinda emo “Everything To Nothing,” and fan favorite “The River.” Manchester Orchestra made it clear that they were worth seeing and I will be seeking them out when they hit up Boston again. Only if Hull is sans beard, of course.
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