Something truly special

If last years’ Dot To Dot festival saw the 2300 capacity Academy 1 closed to lack of sales, this year is the opposite extreme. While Hurts are plying their posturing, monochrome syth-pop next door, Academy 2 has been where the best time is to be had, with The Joy Formidable tying up the gig of their lives to a room of people squeezed together like the cigarettes in pack of Marlboros. Ending their set with ‘Whirring’ for a crowdsurfing audience, the stage is set perfectly for California duo We Are Scientists to headline, with a certain amount of pressure to deliver a worthy response.

A hit and miss affair that was last year’s disappointing album, ‘Barbara’ augurs badly, but we needn’t fear. Uber geeks Keith Murray and bassist Chris Cain, deliver a masterclass in headlining, bringing together hits from their strongest albums, ‘With Love And Squalor’ and ‘Brains Through Mastery’, ably assisted by former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows.

The Londoner definitely adds a new dimension to the band with his energetic playing, and seems far more at home in his current dayjob than catching eggs from the golden arse of former goose in chief Johnny Borrell. Musically, the three performers come together to deliver a tight, impressive sound. Meanwhile front duo Murray and Cain riff over each other like a Big Bang Theory version of Laurel and Hardy, with wry a series of wry asides.

As for the music iself, the hits come thick and fast, with classics like ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’, ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘Chick Lit’ sitting well alongside recent material from the last record. It’s hard to believe they’ve been around for 10 years now, even if Keith Murray’s prematurely gray hair leaves you wondering how old he actually is. “We’re going to turn back the pages”, pausing while Cain winces. “metaphorically”, he adds before they launch powerfully into another classic. They may not be getting any younger, but tonight it’s their experience, to use a footballing cliché, that helps them maintain the interest of the audience with a useful back catalogue.

Their anglophilia shows clearly at times too, for a band that have clearly spent a lot of time goofing around in the indie hotspots of Britain. This is an American band, that last year, recorded an amusing, unofficial World Cup song for England’s football team, after all. They discuss end of bank holiday blues, and the deluge of transactions that hit the day after a weekend of partying and boozing. For an audience who have drunken themselves into a state of euphoria, and are jumping on top of one another, it may be a moot point.

A fitting end comes in the form of ‘After Hours’ a song about everlasting love and mortality seen through the haze of a drunken hour in a favourite bar. It’s a touching end to a spectacular set, and one can’t help but note that even if they’ve looked at it through the bottom of a glass, tonight Manchester has seen something truly special.

Words by Abbas Ali
Archive photo by Danny Payne

Join us on VERO

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.