After last month’s release of genre-defining Cope and the announcement of diverse opening acts Kevin Devine and Balance and Composure, it was no surprise that Manchester Orchestra sold out The Fillmore last Friday night. Fans poured onto the dance floor and into the balconies at the historic venue, waiting in uninhibited agony for the Atlanta-based indie rockers.
When Manchester Orchestra finally did come on, all theatrics ceased; the band stormed the stage with the lead guitar riff of their 2009 hit “Shake It Out”, quelling the impatient audience’s cheers. Without any sort of introduction or dialogue, they marched into their anthemic track “Pensacola”, which echoed throughout the theater due to both the audience and the efforts of live supporting drummer/keyboardist Chris Freeman. The set progressed through about five songs before it delved into new material, and the Cope tracks were all just as grand and heavy-hitting live as they are on the record. They started with “The Ocean”, following a claim that cities closer to oceans tend to react to the song better and San Francisco’s dancing, crowd surfing, and dedicated howling proved them right.
Frontman Andy Hull then addressed the Elephant in the room, the 1,199 elephants to be exact (a terrible pun for selling out the venue). A noticeable tremble in Hull’s voice permeated his loving thank-you speech to the city. He recalled the first time the band opened up the venue and spoke about its history, which was clear from the posters of every sold out show lining the balcony. Jokingly, he thanked the audience for making Manchester Orchestra “as cool as Hendrix,” and then played a string of dissonant notes paying ‘tribute’ to the legend. It was a hilarious comparison which would come up again later in the set.
The band continued with the jokes. They brought attention to their career-long guitar tech and studio engineer’s and light engineer’s birthdays, before abruptly firing the latter for taking too long to respond to the birthday wishes. The engineer responded by cutting the lights out.
After they reconciled, the band brought out the big guns for the new record’s title track. This song is definitely the rawest cut on the album, with guitars Pitchfork misguidedly refers to as “textureless” blaring. It became clear that the live version of the track had more tonal texture than any other. “Cope” and the album opener “Top Notch” revealed growth in the band’s guitar work, while maintaining and honing their indie rock sound even with less orchestral string instruments. They served as a testament to their seasoned, career-long studio engineer’s flexibility.
The band decided to readdress the birthdays, celebrating with a guitar solo duel that, according to themselves, would be “the greatest guitar solo ever played in The Fillmore.” Hull butchered random notes on his Telecaster for a while, but he quickly ended the joke by driving straight into “Everything to Nothing”.
The encore came with even more surprises. It featured a guest appearance from opener Kevin Devine on “Bad Books”, a song from his recent side project with Hull. The band ended with a cover of Willie Nelson’s “The Party’s Over”.
Although Manchester Orchestra jokes about their own fame, it is clear that they have earned it. The crowd at The Fillmore left in a daze to receive free complimentary posters and (oddly venue-specific) apples at the door, conferring with one another that rock is still very much alive.
Article by Atreyue Ryken