Monday, March 3, 2014

BBC 6 Music Festival, Victoria Warehouse Manchester 1st March 2014 9/10

On the second day of this inaugural festival, the limitations of the venue faded, due to the sheer strength of the line-up. Thankfully too the boomy sound of Friday had been tamed, and only the restricted sight lines and lack of space on stage two continued to irritate. A wonderful day of music ended with an incredibly climax from The National, with Lykki Li another highlight.

1) PINS 8/10
The Guardian remarked that this C86 influenced Manchester band sound as if they come from New York; there are also echoes of Best Coast. Yet their live act has matured immensely from their early days, and they're now incredibly tight sounding and energetic. For locals, the BBC's 'Introducing' label seemed superfluous, yet they are now ready for wider attention.

2) The Staves 7/10

The trio of sisters from Watford were joined by a a drummer and bass player, yet their beautiful vocal harmonies still felt better suited to a more intimate space. They're currently recording a second album with  Bon Iver; perhaps they'll take more risks. They're never less than charming, but ultimately rather derivative.

Bombay Bicycle Club's recent album So Long See You Tomorrow is widely regarded as their finest yet, and I found this set on the main stage more engaging than previous festival appearances. The crowd was enthusiastic, reflecting its popular as well as critical appeal.

4) Lykki Li 8.5/10
Alas, I had only fleeting views of the Swedish singer songwriter, but the sound made it clear that her new album and the tour which will follow will be unmissable. The electronics combined powerfully with her sultry vocals; I Follow Rivers was a highlight.

5) Wild Beasts 8/10
I love this Kendal art rock quartet's new album, Present Tense, and their set was delicately poised. Ultimately, I was more impressed than moved, but I'm looking forward to seeing them later this month in a more sympathetic venue, with clearer sound, than this one. Until then, I'm reserving judgement.

6) The National 10/10
The area near the front of the stage was crammed with hard core fans, who'd attended this festival for this moment; the band flew over from Ohio just to perform their 80 minute set. It's difficult to single out highlights: Fake Empire from Boxer, Bloodbuzz Ohio and England from High Violet, and the closing unplugged singalong to Vanderlyle are amongst them. Their albums may sound melancholic and contemplative, but live they're bursting with energy Matt Berninger varied wildly between wandering around nonchalantly on stage with a drink in his had to straining the very boundaries of sanity with his antics. He was unafraid to jump into the crowd, and movingly scaled the disabled platform to perform for a lucky fan.

The inclusion of two live brass players added depth to the sound. Yet, the power of a top ranking rock band was combined with a yearning quality, which was incredibly moving. There was an astonishing atmosphere, surpassing even their High Violet tour two years ago. The person next to me who'd paid four times face value for her ticket surely cannot have had any regrets. This was an evening I remember fondly for a considerable time.

Set List
  • Don't Swallow the Cap 
  • I Should Live in Salt 
  • Mistaken for Strangers 
  • Bloodbuzz Ohio 
  • Sea of Love 
  • Afraid of Everyone 
  • Squalor Victoria 
  • I Need My Girl 
  • This Is the Last Time 
  • Abel 
  • Apartment Story 
  • Pink Rabbits 
  • England 
  • Graceless 
  • Fake Empire
  • Mr. November 
  • Terrible Love 
  • Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

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