Live: Manchester Orchestra (with Say Anything, Biffy Clyro, & Weatherbox)

Manchester Orchestra pic #1
Manchester Orchestra.

WAREHOUSE LIVE -- 4/8/2008: Although this show took place a while back now, it has taken me this long to wrap my head around why a band as talented and musically interesting as Manchester Orchestra would tour with a band as uninspiring as Say Anything. I still can't give you an answer -- so instead I'll just give you all the reasons why I think Manchester Orchestra's indie-rock sound and genuine potential deserves to play center stage when they tour with bands that quite simply suck.
I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child, the band's first full-length album, teems with song after song of rugged guitar chords, lyrical gravity, and a strong vocal presence. These guys are from Atlanta, Georgia, and they have sealed the deal in convincing me that Georgia breeds some damn fine indie musicians. You can hear the southern rock influence in their sound, and there's an underlying gentleness to the album, despite its overall volume. What's even more impressive is the fact that these guys really are talented and are able to translate their intensity and texture well live. So despite the fact that they've played in the past with incredible indie rock inspirers like The Snake the Cross the Crown, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Kevin Devine, Kings of Leon, and Colour Revolt, they made a perplexing move (well -- to me, at least) in choosing to tour the likes of Say Anything.
Because the bands on the bill were more geared to high school loners than individuals in my particular age bracket, the show started unfathomably early. I, due to adult obligations, was unable to make it out to Warehouse Live until a wee bit later and missed both of the opening acts (those being Glasgow's Biffy Clyro and San Diegoans Weatherbox). Though I can't be certain, I would guess I didn't miss much. Both bands' overall musical aura seemed to lean more towards the Say Anything side of things than the more developed sound of Manchester Orchestra.
The few songs I was fortunate enough to catch from Manchester's set were pleasantly loud and complex. Their onstage presence was intense and focused, and every song came off sounding like a bigger, booming version of their recorded counterpart. "I Can Barely Breathe" had all the elements of a solid indie-rock song, ambient in some places yet concentrated and noisy in the spots that needed more oomph. Andy Hull's voice, with its subtle undulation and pitch, is a little reminiscent of that of notable indie-rocker Ben Gibbard. "Where Have You Been?" had a nice combination of eerie keyboard harmonies and grinding guitar chords. The song's lyrical poetry ran nicely along side their instrumental musings. Best of all was the small glimpse the audience got of some of the band's new stuff; their performance of "Shake It Out" was really impressive. It had pounding rhythms and, despite its deep rock roots, a sort of acoustic, laid-back feel to it. It was a nice appetizer to the new music they've been writing. Overall, their performance was even better than expected, and my only regret is that their set started so early, causing me to miss the chance to sample all they had to offer.
Unfortunately, what I did not miss was Say Anything. I dreaded their performance from the get-go, and, sure enough, they went above and beyond my expectations. I'm not sure if it was the lead singer's spastic, premeditated movements that initially turned me off (he does this "I'm-a-little-teapot" move that is quite a sight), or if it was the band's blatant neediness and constant questioning of the crowd in regards to their awesomeness.
I don't like bands that are needy. It's unbecoming. The hundreds of fans standing there, having purchased a ticket to your show, should be an indication of their acceptance of your shitty music. Stop asking and learn to sing better and write lyrics that don't belong as the theme song for some WB-inspired teen melodrama. Their songs belong on MTV, where good music goes to die. What's unfortunate is the fact that if you stripped away the layers of overproduction and booted the lead singer, what would be left is a band that has the potential to play some pretty decent indie-pop music. Sadly, these less-than-desirable pieces make up the core of what Say Anything looks and sounds like, and what it sounds like isn't very interesting. END