Review

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: a refined live performance at Albert Hall

Photo: Neil Krug

Following the release of their fourth studio album Sex and Food, Unknown Mortal Orchestra took to the stage at Manchester’s Albert Hall to promote their latest release, with indie rock sextet Deerhunter sharing the bill. Both displayed rousing performances and technical ability throughout their sets, which electrified the audience.

Arguably the noisier of the two, Deerhunter were up first, though both bands played sets of equal length. They played tracks from across their discography, and upheld a consistently tight performance littered with dashes of noise and distortion, snarling feedback and an inescapable cacophony of sound echoing around the hall. The amount of energy the band threw at the audience was immense, and the venue was suitably fitting as it only increased the intensity of the louder parts of their set. Noisier and lengthy jams were interspersed with their shorter, poppier hits, keeping the audience engaged and enthralled in equal measure.

As thrilling as Deerhunter were, however, the immediacy of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s performance was stunning. Only two songs in, and frontman Ruban Nielson had already circled the entirety of the venue whilst simultaneously playing an extended guitar solo (followed closely behind by a crew member holding a flashlight, of course). The crowd’s response was testament to their ability as both performers, and songwriters, with well-known songs being met with warm applause. Nielson is an experienced live performer, and had no issues commanding the stage, whether through virtuosic guitar playing or just the appropriate amount of showmanship. The rest of the band were just as tight, for while many tracks were faster paced than their studio counterparts, the band kept pace perfectly; whether it be the immediate drum fills in Multi-Love or the instantly recognisable accompanying key parts, the band were tight and professional.

It was interesting to see how Nielson’s vocals would come off live, as they’re often soaked in a myriad of effects on the record, but the singer dealt with this these technicalities with aplomb, and even the more demanding songs were ran through with ease. The set also consisted of a good mix of material, including a few older tracks that pleased long-standing fans, while playing a hefty amount of newer material too. These guys surely know what they’re doing, and if you ever get a chance to catch them live, it’d be an opportunity silly to miss.

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