29th September 2015

Live: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Madness in method, method in madness. UMO are at once a professional and eccentric live act

25th September 2015

The Ritz


There was almost a feeling of unknowing—no pun intended—amongst the crowd before Unknown Mortal Orchestra took to the stage for the Manchester leg of their current tour. UMO make music that is not always easy to categorise. An often upbeat, psychedelic affair punctuated with pointed guitar passages, the style doesn’t necessarily make it easy to predict what kind of show the band might deliver.

As the lights go down UMO take to the stage amid an excited response from those watching. Frontman Ruben Nielson waves to the audience, beaming.  After a slight delay caused by a wayward guitar strap, the band sets off on a swirling intro before launching in to ‘Like Acid Rain’. The crowd responds positively to the enthusiasm, with members of the band embellishing their respective parts to ensure the show does not just become a flat rendition of tracks recorded in the studio.

Throughout UMO’s hour-and-a-quarter set drummer Riley Geare and keyboardist Quincy McCrary are afforded opportunities to perform solo pieces. Lights and spectators focus on them alone—all adding to a passionate show that leads the bouncing onlookers to truly make the most of the Ritz’s infamous sprung dance floor.

Crowd interaction was limited at the start of the show—restricted to a few forays from Nielson to the edge of the stage where he occasionally sat as if to serenade those pressed up to the retaining barriers. A drastic change, however, came during ‘Stage or Screen’ where, leaving the stage with microphone in tow, he waded through the crowd before perching on the bar for most of the song, delivering lines including “act out, but never for stage or screen.” It was a wonderful moment teeming with playful irony on a night where UMO struck a strong balance between showmanship and musical accomplishment.

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