Manchester Orchestra have long been something of an enigma to their fans, much like the closely related Long Island emo giants Brand New, Manchester elects to do things in a little bit of a different way. From their 2006 debut album “I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child” - which more closely resembled northeast emo/post-hardcore rock - to their most recent album, 2017’s “A Black Mile to the Surface” each of their albums has been just a bit different than it's predecessor, never making the same record twice.
Now that the band has grown up and matured, their sound is closer to what you’d expect out of a band from their native Georgia. If Black Mile were their debut record, they would be a band with a much different fan base. But Manchester Orchestra got their start in a time when emo music was at the forefront of the alternative scene. The result of this is an indie folk sound that you’d expect to hear at Newport Folk Festival playing to a crowd who are shouting back lyrics from a mosh pit on the floor.
On Saturday night Manchester Orchestra played to a near capacity crowd at the newly renovated Worcester Palladium. Kicking off their set with a trio of new songs, at first the crowd wasn’t so sure they were in for the fast paced night they showed up expecting, but when the band launched into “Shake it Out” as the fourth song in their set, things changed quickly. All of a sudden those tempestuous crowds of those basement shows were back, lyrics being shouted, fans going crowd surfing, guitar riffs ripping through the venue. The trend would continue on the next song “Pensacola” a Manchester fan favorite with a catchy hook that the band’s fans love to sing along to, “Alcohol, dirty malls, Pensacola, Florida bars” the lyrics that kick in right before the chorus were shouted by what sounded like every member of the audience.
After a couple more of their older songs, they went back to the new album with another trio of new songs, including “The Grocery” which is an indie folk track with just a hint of that old post-hardcore edge, virtually wrapping up the new material for the night, save for the final encore song “The Silence” which was played to close the show. What came out of the show was a blended sound and vibe, on one hand you had the more refined, southern indie folk from the new record, blending in with the post-hardcore early days stuff. But once Manchester got rolling they managed to put an edge on even the softer songs, much to the delight of their audience. The band does a great job of doing something most of today’s artists fail at, staying true to the core sound that first attracted their fan base, while still exploring new territory and maturing their sound thereby rewarding their fans with the type of show they have grown accustomed to.
Coming along for the ride on this tour, and also adding to the emo vibes are modern emo/punk groups Foxing and Tigers Jaw. Foxing’s live performance is one of the most passionate you will ever see. The amount of emotion and feeling they can pack into a six song opening set is truly astonishing. While Tigers Jaw maintains a very simple, light hearted, pop punk sound that invites fans to sing the easy to recall lyrics back with the band during the show.