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Manchester Orchestra – The Bowery Ballroom – April 29, 2009

April 30th, 2009

Manchester Orchestra -The Bowery Ballroom - April 29, 2009Andy Hull’s dimly lit figure loomed over The Bowery Ballroom crowd as he strummed the brooding opening notes of the six-minute “Pride.” Although it was an impressive start, it implied that Manchester Orchestra was about to play a show similar to their previous New York City performances—powerful and passionate, yet seemingly disengaged. Once the coarse song ended, however, Hull started calling audibles to his bandmates, and just one tune later, the band (and the audience) were smirking their way through a cover of Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.”

The rest of Manchester Orchestra’s set loosened up with the band’s personality. They took time between songs to joke with the crowd, call out rambunctious fans and even take shots at themselves (like when guitarist Robert McDowell developed a sneezing fit). Instead of focusing on material from their week-old album, Mean Everything to Nothing, the band split time with the best from their first LP, I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child—a move appreciated by the concertgoers, who shook the Ballroom’s floor during the screamer “Now That You’re Home.”

Still, the maturity shown in Manchester Orchestra’s new record translated to a more wholly enthralling performance. Their newest songs provided the most polished moments of the 14-song set, which lasted more than an hour. They showed they can still pump out powerful and passionate music while truly engaging the crowd. And with a chaotic, airborne-instrument performance of “Where Have You Been?” Manchester Orchestra completed one of the best shows The Bowery Ballroom will have this year. It was so good that after the band left the stage and never returned for the all-too obligatory encore, the sold-out crowd cheered and waited with the lights on until they absolutely had to leave. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com