Being a band who constantly swing between the lighter and grittier ends of the indie rock spectrum, one might have excused Manchester Orchestra should they have chosen to be somewhat reserved on the first night of an extensive UK tour – but roughly half an hour into the night’s proceedings, it becomes clear that excusals are far from necessary. Multiple members of the band have played double – or even triple – duty this evening, and yet it’s during their headline performance that they emit the most vitriol and finesse.

Although the diligent five piece’s set makes room for an even spread of tracks from the band’s lengthy back catalogue, it’s the material aired from this year’s commercial peak Cope that seems to resonate strongest within the sweat-soaked walls of the Wedgewood Rooms. ‘Top Notch’ erupts with a primal ferocity that far transcends the audacity of its recorded counterpart, whereas ‘Every Stone’ cements its position as one of the band’s most accessible and feel-good songs with a roaring, crowd-reciprocated chorus.

Perhaps the most unexpected – and yet most welcome – element of Manchester Orchestra’s live show is their ability to continually shift the room’s atmosphere without ever losing focus or becoming a disjointed mess. In one moment, frontman Andy Hull effortlessly leads a crowd of faithfuls through an impassioned rendition of ‘Deer’ – the next, a jet-lag induced state of delirium evokes candid talk of foot masturbation and sensual dreams involving Cool Runnings actor John Candy. Whether the lack of consistency is merely a result of first night of tour syndrome or not, it undeniably makes for a more congenial experience for both the band and their audience.

As the band call time with the spontaneous decision to close with a full band version of their ‘technical difficulties’ song – a comical ode to baseball legend Barry Bonds – it’s difficult to picture a more apt ending for such a high-spirited, raucous and unpredictable affair. Raw and energetic, Manchester Orchestra prove themselves to be an animated tour de force – devouring any preconceptions of a lightweight performance.

Joshua Pauley

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