Over the years, California quintet Of Mice and Men have endured many a lineup reshuffle. 2014, however, saw the current, solid, and hopefully permanent, lineup release their riff and scream-filled album Restoring Force. It was an incredible release and bound to make any budding fan, new or old, excited to hear it in a live setting as the band sold out their entire UK/Europe headlining tour. The tour brought the band to Manchester where they were to play The Ritz to kids clearly holding high expectations, as some even began queueing from two in the morning.
However, despite the outstanding display of support from Beartooth and Issues, Of Mice and Men were rather underwhelming. Though they had a pretty mixed set through thirteen songs, with a little from every album, there wasn’t really a balance. It gave an appearance that it flowed, though this was more because each song had quite a similar sound and it was incredibly easy to mistake one song for another as they sprung into it. Visually it could have been better, their backdrop is a wonderful display of their album cover however it is not seen throughout their set. There is incredibly harsh low lighting, hiding the band behind clouds of smoke rather than highlighting them through it.
The lack of crowd interaction didn’t work in their favour either, it seemed focus was more on getting through all thirteen songs, encore included, in time for the curfew, and it took away from that personal experience that comes with acknowledgement that the band knew who they were playing to. There was some redemption toward the end, when a few words were shared to introduce Of Mice and Men’s most popular song ‘Second & Sebring’. Of all songs it was the one to bring the biggest reaction, with everyone from the sides and the back of the room rushing to the front to sing the catchy chorus back with singer Aaron Pauley.
The set ended on ‘You’re Not Alone’, their only encore performance and debut single from Restoring Force, which drew everyone in for one final burst of energy. While it is good to save the best ’til last, it’s a shame that it was one of the only highlights of the set. Of Mice and Men certainly don’t lack talent and after such an incredible album release at the beginning of the year, it’s unfortunate that they couldn’t translate it into a live setting as well as they could have.