Not as good as they want to be. Yet.
Wu Lyf live at Village Underground, Shoreditch on June 17th 2011

This year’s marvelous MIF continues to stretch Mancunian venues in a quest for innovation. If Björk and Albarn have been the guaranteed bums-on-seats headliners, the show that really set the pulse racing was the idea of seeing of the saviours of modern music/hyped-up charlatans (delete as appropriate) Wu Lyf in a tunnel.

Part of Great Bridgewater Street passes under the old Central Station, which is now Manchester Central an exhibition centre and the one-time G-MEX arena. The tunnel is a short stretch of the street and for tonight’s show one end has been blocked off to create a stage.

The venue is perfect – the ‘Dungeon of G-MEX’ is an apt setting for Wu Lyf. The local quartet seems to inhabit the outer edges of the music business. Tonight - their biggest hometown show – there is a palpable excitement in the fuggy tunnel air. The Manchester glitterati are out; Johnny Marr is in attendance, while fellow ex-Smith Mike Joyce is getting cuddly with his missus a few yards away from Clash.

With their cultish symbol as a backdrop, Wu Lyf open with ‘L Y F’, which throbs and soars, with vested singer Ellery Roberts (who from 20 yards back looks more like a member of West Lyf) snarling out his rhetoric. With Roberts on keyboards, each band member seems to further hug the shadows. The crowd is segmented – the ‘believers’ at the front are immediately up for it, but further back Wu Lyf struggle to seduce the talkers, tweeters and texters. Roberts does get a call-and-response going with the hardcore fans on a punchy ‘Spitting Blood’ which segues beautifully into a pounding version of recent single ‘Dirt’.

Maddeningly, the 50-minute set is bedeviled by technology. Their visuals don’t work - unless Wu Lyf wanted ‘Pioneer’ and ‘DVD’ projected onto the Victorian brickwork. The sound is pretty awful too - in fact, the encore resonates beautifully down the tunnel so that the smokers supping their pints outside a pub across the road probably think Wu Lyf are sounding great. And on ‘We Bros’, a suitably epic finale, Roberts is in fine voice – his acapella rasp a urgent sermon from the underworld. On tonight’s showing Wu Lyf have the intent, but not the tunes, and are not as good as they want to be. Yet.

Words by John Freeman
File Photo by Elinor Jones
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