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alexcooper
28th May 2022

Live Review: It’s Good to Be Back with Metronomy

Alex Cooper reviews Metronomy’s triumphant return to Manchester.
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Live Review: It’s Good to Be Back with Metronomy
Photo: Alex Lambert via Press

Metronomy, which started as a side project of frontman Joseph Hoult, has evolved beyond what the members of the band themselves could imagine. Their career has taken twists and turns from lo-fi laptop-based music to the full band 2011 effort The English Riviera, nominated for a Mercury Prize. There is an air of unlikelihood about Metronomy’s success, not being conventional pop stars, yet still forcing themselves into the forefront of both indie rock and electronic music over their career. Comparisons can be made with similar touchstones being LCD Soundsystem and MGMT.

 

Metronomy came to Manchester Academy, having been delayed a year by the pandemic, but with a new album under their belt to showcase. Small World, released in February, reflects on lockdown times optimistically and delicately. It contrasts with their more potent sonic direction but it is still inherently Metronomy. The Academy is a stop on their UK Tour in support of Small World, culminating at London’s Alexandra Palace.

 

First up, however, were Mancunian support act Porij. A self-assured band walked on stage with matching clothes, exuding confidence but also a palpable excitement between them. Their sound is much from the school of Metronomy themselves, combining dance beats with guitar music influences. As former students at both Universitty of Manchester’s neighbour, RNCM, it was very much a home crowd, and a venue they would have frequented as students. Now, the roles are reversed, which you could see in their excitement. You couldn’t help but smile at the lead vocalist and keys player, Eggy, who radiated across the fast filling Academy crowd. The infectious energy shone through, and they received a very favourable reception from the anticipating crowd. Porij’s new single, ‘Lose Our Minds, is out on Spotify now.

After a short break, each member of Metronomy walked on stage without many theatricals, picked up their instruments and started to play; this ad-hoc mentality carried throughout the set, even through the higher production numbers. Opening with new song ‘Love Factory’, the tone was set, with each member of the band shining. Joseph Mount’s vocals are as distinctive as in the studio. Bassist Olugbenga Adelekan struts to and from the microphone, prompting the crowd to clap in time to the (ironically) metronomic beat of the music. Anna Prior contributes vocal duties as well as her impeccable command of the drums, and keyboardists Oscar Cash and Michael Lovett carry out a somewhat awkward yet charming choreographed dance routine.

 

After their opener, the band immediately plunged into their classic ‘The Bay’, which they kept on evolving beyond the confines of the studio track. Olugbenga acts as the perfect foil to Mount, his effortless cool complimenting Mount’s idiosyncratic demeanour. Any member of the crowd that may have held reservations about the more delicate opener can now relish in the soundscape that is produced, with the width and depth of the Academy accentuating the similar traits in the music.

 

The on-the-nose new track ‘It’s Good to Be Back’ holds a clarity live, and you genuinely believe it. Metronomy appear to be so grateful to be returning to a live environment, and it becomes abundantly clear why; they’re good at it. Metronomy hold masterful control over their audience; sure, there are times when it feels like the way they operate shouldn’t work, but it just does. Transitions between genres seem effortless, and there is a distinct lack of ego. Playing a career-spanning set, from the noise rock electronic ‘You Could Have Easily Had Me’ off their 2006 debut, to the new folky and delicate ‘Things Will Be Fine’. Perhaps the most commendable part of Metronomy’s masterclass was keeping the set coherent despite the vast disparity in genres; something that I didn’t even notice until reflecting on it later, which means they pulled it off.

 

Photo: Alex Cooper @ The Mancunion

Towards the latter half of the set, members of the band come and go off the stage and allow individuals to showcase their talent; this kept us entertained and guessing, while also allowing us to miss seeing the band operate. When they regained their full line-up, there was a pent-up joyful atmosphere in the room. This led to a highlight of the set, the blues version of the 2019 single ‘Salted Caramel Ice Cream’, which took everyone by surprise. Their playful and tongue-in-cheek track was elevated on the live stage by the half-remix and suited the controlled chaos of their set. Metronomy keep the audience guessing without being misunderstood, which is a fine and difficult balance to strike.

 

However, after the bemusing yet humorous improvised laundry-based skit played out, with Mount prompting Cash to sing operatically. Out of nowhere, the opening riff to Metronomy’s best-known hit ‘The Look’ played. There was audible glee from the crowd. Now over 10 years old, the song sounds as fresh as ever, and the audience fed off the energy of the modern classic. With the crowd perfectly doing the ab-libs on the second chorus (“big book”, “look look”, “shook shook”, and, you guessed it, “took took”), from the gig emerged an experience. There was a collective catharsis in the room like everyone had been waiting for the specific moment to let loose, with several mosh pits forming for the breakdown. In that moment, everyone at Manchester Academy could bask in the glory of the song and forget any extenuating circumstances. It was truly moving, in the most backward way possible.

 

After an encore featuring brooding, Sparks-esque single ‘Love Letters’, the band bid their farewell after a candid and free-flowing 90-minute set. There wasn’t any disappointment lingering among the crowd sprawling out onto Oxford Road, but a total content for the experience they had just had. A year’s wait seemed irrelevant; Metronomy’s set had thoroughly entertained the Thursday night crowd, and I’m sure if they were given the chance, many could have enjoyed the band for much longer.

 

The perfect band is greater than the sum of its parts; Metronomy fit this. Each member was eminently watchable and produced a set filled with joy, which I think is what you want out of a gig from this kind of band. Metronomy’s music defined an era of my teens, The English Riviera and Summer 08 paving the way to some of my favourite music. Having finally seen them live, I understand; it is within the genre-bending and permitting every member to shine within their own right that the unlikelihood of Metronomy’s success becomes likely. Talent and joy prevail, and Metronomy are pioneers of both. It’s good to be back.

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Head Music Editor and Writer for the Mancunion. Once walked past Nick Cave in Zagreb. Enquiries: [email protected]

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