Making their debut appearence in the UK on this tour, Bad Books brings together indie behemoths Manchester Orchestra and Kevin Devine into one indie supergroup. Performing cuts mostly from their second record II, the amount of fun that this band has on stage despite not being a full time band is unmatched.
Despite the earliness of the bill (Bad Books appearing onstage at 6:50, a time Hull later remarks as ‘sharp’), the real highlight is how on form this band is with everything, improvising songs off the top of their head, playful banter and hilarious stories. The only real disappointment was the focus on material from their second album, hopefully when the band next hit these shores we can hear songs such as ‘Mesa, AZ’ and ‘Please Move’.
This tour also marks the first occasion that Kevin Devine has brought The Goddamn Band over to the UK since the release of his “bratty punk record” Bubblegum. It’s honestly strange to watch how much Devine flails about freely onstage with the band as most are used to him being an acoustic singer-songwriter.
The amount of emotion he puts into songs is most evident on ‘Red Bird’ which should remain to be a staple in his set as the entire room erupts in a flurry of guitar feedback with every member of The Goddamn Band giving everything they truly have.
Although Devine focuses mostly on material from his latest record, it’s nice to see some golden choice cuts from his back catalogue thrown in with ‘Cotton Crush’ providing the room with a huge singalong.
Manchester Orchestra’s popularity has soared to great heights since 2011’s Simple Math. The band have had their music featued in films (‘After The Scripture’ was featured in Dallas Buyers Club and was also played at the Oscars) as well as being guest performers on many Late Night talk shows (David Letterman being an outspoken fan of the band). With the release of their fourth record Cope earlier this year, the band eschewed some of the more delicate and atmospheric moments in favour of an abrasive guitar.
From the get-go, the band open up proceedings with the slow burning ‘Pride’ before effortlessly wasting no time transitioning into the blistering ‘Shake It Out’ which amasses huge singalongs from the members of the audience. Bassist Andy Prince has to be commended tonight for playing 3 sets each night of the tour and slaying it on each occasion. Despite some minor faults with his bass amp, Prince brings a lot more to the band in terms of stage presence and musicality, this is particularly noticeable on the huge roar of ‘The Ocean’ from Cope. Constrasting this however, the band still seamlessly slips in softer reinterpretations of their songs such as ‘The Mansion’ where Hull’s haunting vocals and slightly distorted guitar reverberate across the venue.
Commenting on when in their career the band stopped being labeled as an ’emo’ band, Andy Hull points out the ludicrousness of this statement by replacing the opening lyrics of ‘I Can Barely Breathe’ with “When my girlfriend died” to the amusement of the band and audience who were in fits of laughter.
Closing out the night, fans were treated to a delicate performance of ’42’ performed by Hull, Devine and guitarist Robert McDowell as well as an extra surprise of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ theme tune with Devine performing hilarious vocal fills reminiscent of Eddie Vedder inbetween.