Live: Black Country, New Road @ Yes, Manchester

Sonic experimentation and sax-fuelled moshing courtesy of Black Country, New Road There’s always a sense of trepidation when first witnessing a heavily-lauded band, especially with only two singles to go on. Tonight’s show sees Black Country, New Road return to YES, Manchester after only a couple of months since their last.
Posted: 23 January 2020 Words: James Wolfe

Sonic experimentation and sax-fuelled moshing courtesy of Black Country, New Road

There’s always a sense of trepidation when first witnessing a heavily-lauded band, especially with only two singles to go on. Tonight’s show sees Black Country, New Road return to YES, Manchester after only a couple of months since their last. Tellingly, tonight is sold out, with the band adding a second show immediately after the first in the basement, before they set off on the rest of a short UK tour.

In the curiously lavish Pink Room, Black Country, New Road, a six-piece whose musical abilities are immediately apparent, capture the audience from the instant the drums kick in. They are an act that has honed their stagecraft and performance. The band begin in stages, connecting like a jigsaw into a bouncing jam. With closely locked-in rhythm sections and a wash of sound from saxophone, violin and synths, it allows the guitars the space to lick or growl as needed.

The band explores the theatricality of build and fall in their sound and presence, with members coming to the fore and backing away, captivating the grinning audience with every moment. Their sound is difficult to pin down, combining jazz obscurity, spoken work and guttural grunge, with washes of psych, and ultimately none of the above. Diverse influences appear from Arthur Lee’s Love to Vangelis, to The Fall. This is a band operating from their definition, exploring their own sonic avenues and we, the audience, are all the better for it.

Their singles ‘Athens, France’ and especially the 8-minute long ‘Sunglasses’ are received with huge roars and a mosh pit ensues with collective chants of “I’m more than adequate” by the crowd.

The comparisons with that other rising experimental band Black Midi are obvious, both bands having a strong sense of individualism, musical exploration and powerful command over their sound. Black Country, New Road, however, seems more engaged with their audience as an extension of the performance, with the audience reciprocating that energy right back to the band. First-time witnesses are immediately drawn into this collectiveness.

Coming away it is hard to determine whether one has witnessed the birth of an exciting new British meta genre and a stand-out act, or an experimental musical exploration. Or both.

Listen to Sunglasses by Black Country, New Road

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