Manchester Orchestra

Manchester Orchestra gave an all-ages crowd everything it wanted and more, providing music old and new in their newly-found style.

Manchester Orchestra’s new album, A Black Mile to a Surface, has received praise for illustrating the evolution and maturity the band has undergone. This growth was on display for a sparse crowd at The Observatory North Park on Wednesday night – likely the consequence of being scheduled the same night as Green Day – and visible not only through the close cut of Andy Hull’s beard, but the expected softer takes of their new songs and unexpected new imaginings of their old hits.

The band’s breakout album from nearly a decade ago, Means Everything To Nothing, still holds up with its controlled loudness serving as a proxy for its emotional release. Since that time, Hull and his bandmates have not only gotten older and started families, but taken time to pursue other projects, like tracking the indie cinema hit Swiss Army Man, done solely instrumentally. That experience has informed their new music, utilizing the use of both positive and negative space to drive home the soulful, sometimes mournful lyrics.

This was on display throughout the night, with an apex of a quieter take of “I’ve Got Friends,” with the toned down instrumentals serving to highlight the lonesome, desperate lyrics: “I’ve got friends in all the right places/I know what they want/and I know they don’t want me to stay.” While the lyrics sound defiant in the original take, the reimagined live edition rather pictures the singer as introspective, no doubt the result of the passing time and experiences since the original.

One thing, however, remains: the band still puts on an incredible live show, with Hull’s voice and the band’s tight instrumentality shining through. While there was plenty of space to move around, the crowd was enthusiastic, filling the intentional gaps left in the anthem-like moments by the still-svelte Hull with a cacophony of voices, on songs both old and new.

A Black Mile to a Surface is available now, and well worth your time.

Review by: David Israel
Photos By: Charlie Spadone