"Andy Hull's borderline-falsetto vocals are perfectly mated to the band's wall of sound approach."
For a band that never quite fit into the mid-2000s emo scene, or found mainstream appeal, Manchester Orchestra have amassed an avid fan base that came out in droves to Sydney's Metro Theatre.
It's been nearly four years since the Atlanta-based indie rockers graced Australian shores but much has changed for the quintet. Their latest effort, 2017's A Black Mile To The Surface, is a return to form after 2014's Cope garnered mixed responses from new and old fans alike.
After Modern Baseball's recent hiatus, Jake Ewald proved there's life after the four-piece as he warmed a reasonably empty room with his current project Slaughter Beach, Dog. His stripped-back, folk-punk tunes are at odds with his previous outfit, but make sense given the scene's history of frontmen going acoustic. His songs feel personal and raw, with sweet, lyrical storytelling in the style of musicians like Conor Oberst or Frank Turner.
Over the next half an hour, the room fills to the brim with fans from all walks of life. After a 15-minute delay, Manchester Orchestra waste no time with introductions, tearing through the first three tracks from their latest album - The Maze, The Gold, and The Moth. The Gold introduces the first crowd singalong of the night, surprising given it's the kind of moment usually reserved for older fan favourites. It is a testament to the dedication of their fans and the reception of their latest album.
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The opening chords of Shake It Out, from the seminal release Mean Everything To Nothing, welcomes an energetic response from the crowd. The intensity and dynamism of their sound translates well to the room, though a lazy light show hampers some of the impact. Andy Hull's borderline-falsetto vocals are perfectly mated to the band's wall of sound approach, highlighted in the follow-up, I've Got Friends.
The enthusiasm of the crowd wanes a little in the extended medley of tracks from A Black Mile To The Surface; The Alien, The Sunshine and The Grocery, but picks back up immediately as they follow up with Simple Math, the title single from 2011's album. The enthusiasm reaches an awkward peak as the crowd attempts to clap along somewhat out of time and place. Cope, which proved divisive on its release, is given a singular entry with the title track. The River, where Hull sings, "I talk to you best when I sing," is a pointer to the frontman's reluctance to talk on stage and the fact it took nearly an hour to introduce the band.
After a brief stage exit, the band comes back on to play fan favourite I Can Feel A Hot One. The song is tender refrain from their others but the intensity is ever-present, with Hull at his most vulnerable. They finish with The Silence, from their latest album, drawing an all-too-soon conclusion to a memorable set.