Manchester Orchestra – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 13, 2013
Before last night, it had been more than two years since Manchester Orchestra’s last proper headlining show in any one of the five boroughs. And after all that time, their return, last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, was met with the frenzied enthusiasm of a sold-out crowd for the Georgia band’s electrifying set. If you take adages to heart, that one about absence making the heart grow fonder seemed to apply pretty completely.
With their musical teeth as sharp as ever, the five-piece rock band came out swinging with “Shake It Out,” one of the most brash songs off their second album, 2009’s Mean Everything to Nothing. The tune hit the crowd quickly with its assaulting, distortion-heavy guitars and lead singer Andy Hull’s snarling wail. It set the tone for the rest of the set as Manchester Orchestra performed some of their heavier songs to complement the two new tracks they played, which skewed in that same sonic direction. They included “Virgin,” one of the band’s darkest songs from their 2011 release, Simple Math, as well as Mean Everything’s last two numbers, “Everything to Nothing” and “The River,” with a smooth transition in between.
More melodic songs like “Pensacola” and “Pale Black Eye” even carried a little extra thump. But there was still time for total surprises, however, as tunes like heartbreak-anthem “Colly Strings” and Andy Hull’s go-to, a cover of Willie Nelson’s “The Party’s Over,” fit neatly into the set list. And because of their absence, Manchester Orchestra were actually afforded something they had never truly had before this tour—the ability to keep fans wondering which song was coming next, and they took full advantage. Their set took dynamic twists and turns, and the crowd of fans that had waited so long sang every word right back at them without breaking their starry-eyed gaze. —Sean O’Kane