Manchester Orchestra are a band who have very little to do with either of those things. Hailing from Atlanta, the band started life as a modest outlet for then 17 year old Andy Hull to vent his raging pubescent emotions. Since then, the band has morphed in to the fully fleshed out entity that it is today, shaking off any synonymity with bands such as Brand New and becoming one of the biggest names in American indie at the moment. Having been following the band since the early days, it's a wonder that I've yet to catch them live but tonight promises to change all that and despite any initial discrepancies about which Academy the gig is actually in, we descend the stairs down to Club Academy and are met with a much larger crowd than we anticipated.
Support tonight comes in the form of Gang Of Youths, there's little in the way of crowd movement but the ambitious anthemics that come from the stage are clearly captivating those not at the bar. It's a fairly straight forward alternative rock sound and a far cry from the acoustic recordings we heard on YouTube prior to leaving, there are occasional smatterings of shoegaze though, something which gives an otherwise loud but overall generic aesthetic some interesting aspects. And though it seems unlikely that Gang Of Youths warmed the crowd up too much (most people here obviously anxious for the main band to appear) it was a solid support set and they're a band I'll keep an eye on in future, providing of course their three guitars stay plugged in.
As the lights dim, and the bearded figure of Hull takes to the stage, the crowd has already tripled in size, and those at the back of the venue soon flock forward as the first notes of 'Shake It Out' burst from the monitors allowing every head to nod in unison. From the outset it's clear that the band of come on leaps and bounds since the formative days, and those we're with who have been fortunate enough to catch them on previous tours note that they seem more confident in themselves than ever before. This can no doubt be attributed to the recent release of the band's fifth album Cope, which affords Manchester Orchestra the option of adding a certain amount of weight to tonight's set. Tracks such as 'The Ocean' and 'Top Notch' fitting in side by side with such fan-favourites as 'I've Got Friends' and 'I Can Barely Breathe', though newer tracks do seem to fall flat on certain pockets of the crowd who presumably haven't picked up a copy of Cope just yet.
In terms of crowd interaction, Hull seems more comfortable talking to the crowd than I would have expected, the shy nature perpetuated by his lyricism is shattered as he banters back and forth, even treating the crowd to an acapella snippet of Dr Dre's 'The Next Episode' before announcing he in fact only likes 50 Cent. With moments like this, it's easy to see why Manchester Orchestra are selling out venues across the globe. Not only do they have the songs people want to hear, but they also have a certain everyman charm about them that isn't as easy to pick up on in their recordings as it is at their gigs.
Ending with an extended version of 'Where Have You Been?' which sees Hull covering his friend and collaborator Kevin Devine as well, the set ends on a quiet note following a late inclusion of the eponymous 'Simple Math'. And as we begin to file out of the venue, blinking slightly at the sudden change in lighting, we overhear one person say the only way that tonight's show could have been better was if they had a longer set, and you can't help but think that that person had a point. Sixteen tracks is by no means a short set but it was certainly over far too soon. Let's just hope it won't be another three years before they're back on English soil.