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30th March 2024

Chrysalis Records live in Manchester: Marika Hackman and Gia Ford take Gorilla

The London-based independent record label Chrysalis Records put their best foot forwards at Manchester’s own Gorilla, with rising starlet Gia Ford and the brilliant Marika Hackman
Chrysalis Records live in Manchester: Marika Hackman and Gia Ford take Gorilla
Credit: Ben Lilley

Starting promptly at 7:30, Gia Ford wasted no time in kicking into her newest single ‘Poolside’, a cinematic track with a hook primed for radio of another era. As soon as Nicolas Py’s drums tumbled out to the audience and Antonio Marie’s thumped into action, Ford’s vocals soared over the mix. The sound at Gorilla left nothing to be concealed, with the crisp vocals taking precedence in the mix. This, however, was no issue for Gia Ford and her group, as what was laid bare was her impeccable Americana-tinged songwriting, with guitarist Conor Houston’s embellishments reinforcing, rather than overshadowing, the tunes.

Flowing seamlessly through a well-crafted set of tracks that will no doubt feature on her upcoming LP, Ford laid her influences bare – a touch of Fleetwood Mac here, a hint of Lana Del Rey there.

The set meandered through track after track, without losing the audience once. Singles such as ‘Alligator’ and ‘Falling In Love Again’, featuring Houston’s ethereal Ian Sergeant-like guitar stabs, were highlights of the brief set, demonstrating Ford’s effortless ability to both craft gorgeous ballads and indie-tinged delights. Finishing off with the final of her singles, the anthemic ‘Car Crash For Two’, the band stooped further and further into their rock-ish sensibilities, bringing the brilliantly compact set to a close with a staple – distorted guitar feedback.

Having signed to Chrysalis Records just over a year ago, Ford has just recorded her debut album with Tony Berg – of Boygenius’ The Record fame among many other things – at Sound City Studios in LA. If anything, she is consistently going from strength to strength, and the flurry of singles she has out right now proves her talent to no end.

Gia Ford. Credit: Melanie Lehman

Maria Hackman, by contrast, is no stranger to touring. Having last played Manchester four years ago, there was a clear sense of anticipation bouncing off of Gorilla’s curved walls. As the lights faded and a string quartet took to the speakers, the feeling was palpable.

Starting strong, Hackman wasted no time as the first trickle of keyboards summoned her stellar single, ‘No Caffeine’. The band appeared unsettled, with some issues with in-ear monitors bringing concerned looks to the faces on stage. As Hackman’s pure vocals first cut through, the bass and drums soon took over this fine balance, dragging the song into its driving verses. After a sigh of relief, the song concluded. Technical mishaps are to be expected for a touring act of this size – comfortably selling out mid-sized venues, but not quite getting private jets across the country. This raw fragility would set the tone for Marika Hackman’s evening.

As was to be expected, these issues persisted, one being an amplified buzz tone that rattled through Hackman’s guitar. She joked about it several times – “it’s the trains,” or “a little choir of wasps” – but it would persevere throughout her set, the soundman being powerless to fix it.

That very buzz meant that, as the halfway point of the show approached and Hackman was left onstage alone, she had to turn and face stage left, angling her guitar in a temperamental balance away from her amp. That meant my view – positioned stage right – was of Hackman’s back, as she wandered through some of her more delicate numbers. That fragility lent itself perfectly to Hackman’s fragile delivery.

The three raw acoustic numbers she played – ‘Cigarette’ and ‘Claude’s Girl’ being by far the best – soared, despite having no band backing. The beautifully stripped-back song was left to breathe, and God what a tune Hackman can write.

Credit: Ben Lilley

Another number she played in this brief solo interlude was an Elliot Smith cover, ‘Between The Bars’, which was a delicate touch. While it was by no means a cover that drags a fresh, new take out of a pre-existing song, Hackman’s touch was characteristically soft, and the number flowed seamlessly with the rest of the set.

As the band returned and the set fell back into that driving beat, the anthemic tune ‘Hanging’ took over, with its multi-layered harmonies taking over Gorilla’s curved walls. The set continued at this pace through Hackman’s stellar back-catalogue, before closing out strong with ‘Boyfriend’ from 2017’s I’m Not Your Man. By the time the band jumped back onstage for the ever-expected encore of ‘The Yellow Mile’ and ‘Any Human Friend’, Hackman and her lot had laid claim on the hearts and minds of the Gorilla audience.

Raw, fragile, delicate. However you want to describe it, Marika Hackman laid herself all bare. Chrysalis Records have some fascinating talent, and both Gia Ford and Marika Hackman prove nothing more than the ever-growing appetite for carefully crafted songs.

Jacob Broughton-Glerup

Jacob Broughton-Glerup

Jacob Broughton-Glerup is a music journalist and avid music fan from Sheffield interested in all things lyrical and odd.

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