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28th February 2024

FIZZ Live in Manchester: Proof that best friends make the best bands

Known together as FIZZ, Dodie, Orla Gartland, Martin Luke Brown and Greta Issac brought their fever dream tour to Manchester, finding a spiritual home in the colourful indulgence
FIZZ Live in Manchester: Proof that best friends make the best bands
Credit: Karina Barberis

There’s no easy way to put a show that luxuriates in its own chaos into words, but that is the appeal of FIZZ’s A Secret To Life Tour. From further back in the crowd, before me was a sea of excited faces. Friends whispering, dots of coloured hair, people gathered around the bars; all promised the same indie-supergroup musical extravaganza. From an indie supergroup of rather more serious musicians, together they do not underpromise on fun.

Maya Delilah’s opening set drew the humming crowd into silence. Just a girl, a guitar and a loop pedal, but her buttery voice and smooth soul-tinged folk settled the crowd into quiet admiration. This was disrupted as the lights went down for FIZZ, UFO malfunction warnings blaring, reminiscent of the album’s intro track ‘A New Phase Awaits You’. The room transformed into a spaceship crash-landing. ‘High In Brighton’, the band’s first single, welcomed the crowd into Fizzville, not taking a breath before launching into thumping clarinet solos, microphone swapping, and an alien world of lollipop trees and disconcerting pastoral scenery. This would become a running theme.

Before the rolling green hills of FIZZ’s own art-rock Oz, they laid out track after track of an album that always sounded like it was meant to be seen live. It was an infectious show, with every person moving and dancing in the crowd as we all indulged in collective candied delirium.

Credit: Bea Pengelly @ The Mancunion

Gartland, Issac, Brown, and Clark greet the room with just as much energy as they sing to them. Gartland and Issac shared slightly reimagined solo work ‘Codependency’ and ‘5”1’’’, complete with harmony and instrumental contributions from all six people on the stage. Brown’s ‘It Gets Better’ was a special moment in the show. Originally from Leicester, he spoke of Manchester as his second home, and dedicated the song to his mum, with his whole family in attendance.

That and ‘Rocket League’ were a real high point, the band and crowd united in screaming “football with cars” until Martin took over with what I can only assume was reminiscent of a young Elton John. After passing through a brief dirty riff on the fears of ageing in ‘Hell Of A Ride’, the show arrives at ‘As Good As It Gets’. This song was almost a separate experience, Greta taking the reins to belt out in a moment of cleanliness; a utopian musical current, with purified female rage burning through the crowd.

The next logical place from here was of course a cover of Lily Allen’s ‘Smile’, another dose of perfect silliness, jumbled with a clarinet rendition of ‘Entry of the Gladiators’ and tidbits of the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’. You never knew what was coming next, but it was this unpredictability that made it all the more entertaining.

It was then taken all the way back down, with Dodie leading ‘You, Me, Lonely’, calling back to some of the closeness of the opening set. Suddenly all the spectacle falls away, and the true heart of the band is exposed. They still all play, the harmonies are still sung, but it is softer, and smaller, and blue. It faded out into Dodie’s ‘Lonely Bones’, which had the whole room waltzing around in pairs.

Credit: Bea Pengelly @ The Mancunion

The crowd was particularly excited for Gartland’s lead on ‘Close One’, a true indie pop ballad that glittered away under the clearer blue lights. The band introduced their last song, much to the annoyance of the crowd, and ‘The Grand Finale’ finally became what it wanted to be on the recorded album. It exploded onto the stage, an imaginary red and gold stage curtain falling over the band as they gave their tribute to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, and closed out the show with a promise that they’ll really miss us. It did truly feel like the end of the show, final bows taken, final dances danced.

But there’s always more. The room went still as voices echoed around the room, friends of FIZZ explaining the secret to life as they see it, with a cheeky but poignant contribution of “jepic slay slay” from Jedward. It was a heartwarming end to the show, a wider recognition of the true friendship that powers the band’s music. With this, the final song, dirtiest guitar riff, and clarinet solos of the night graced the stage (unforgettably accompanied by a bubble machine, and a repeated guitar solo sung as cats). FIZZ sets out the ‘Secret To Life’ as they see it, a rumination on uselessness and existentialism packaged neatly in the surrealism of Fizzville, finished with the band taking colourful shots from the audience.

Post-show, it seems that FIZZ has found a spiritual home in Manchester. Just a stone’s throw from the Northern Quarter and Gay Village, the O2 Ritz was lit up with the same colour and soul that beats through the creative spaces in this city. FIZZ live is a celebration of friendship, a workshop of unadulterated chaos that somehow produces an almost perfect show. The undercurrent of pandemonium is ever-present, the show never found itself becoming too serious before you were right back in bedlam where you started. The Secret to Life Tour has a golden heart, a flair for the dramatic and vaguely frenzied. When Manchester welcomed FIZZ in to play, it welcomed children of its musical past, and bearers of its spirit. It surely won’t take long for them to come back.

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