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14th May 2024

bar italia live in Manchester: An embrace from ‘Tracey Denim’ and ‘The Twits’

bar italia gets the crowd ‘punkt’ with a fruitful return at Manchester’s Band on the Wall, sustaining their reputability after two successful albums
bar italia live in Manchester: An embrace from ‘Tracey Denim’ and ‘The Twits’
Photo Credit: Parisa Kimiaei @ The Mancunian

After releasing albums Tracey Denim and The Twits last year, bar italia have headlined a myriad of shows, returning to Manchester to revive us this May with their hypnotic, eternally nostalgic aura. It’s safe to say that after performing at both Coachella weekends, this band can no longer be deemed as the “enigmatic London trio” they once were (according to Pitchfork back in 2023).

Whilst many modern-day alternative-rock bands thrive on stimulating their audiences through maximalism and disorder, bar italia manages to charm their audience with simplicity. There were no flickering lights to distract us from Nina Cristante’s delightful composure. Neutrality was a key ingredient in what made this gig so personal. It was as if everyone else in the room had disappeared and you were suddenly teleported to an other-worldly place in which the only things that existed were you and the twirling angel with the tambourine. And maybe the pint of Somersby cider in your hand which you forgot about too.

Nina Cristante, photo by Parisa Kimiaei

The setlist was enriched with tracks from their two latest albums – but did not leave out their older, beloved creations like ‘rage quit’ and ‘Polly Armour’. Even ‘skylinny’, from their 2020 release Quarrel, made an appearance, perhaps for the sake of saving the best for last. ‘Missus Morality’ was the penultimate track, providing an encore which paid respects to their progression.

The Twits blessed the crowd with its trio of singles in the set, inter-splicing in chronological order in terms of their release. ‘Jelsy’ seemed to be the stand-out single, being designated its space in the middle of the set, gratifying each ear with the repeated old-country twang of the guitar. It had a sense of American spirit to it that made you want to dance on top of the table at an old bar, holding onto a cowboy hat you stole from a 70-something-year-old man you met who’d stopped for a beer mid-road-trip. ‘my little tony’ and ‘world’s greatest emoter’ were the other two singles they performed, which were more fast-paced and angsty.

Sam Fenton, photo by Parisa Kimiaei

Jezmi Tarik Fehmi and Sam Fenton served in button-up shirts, opposing Cristante’s casual disposition with subtle formality. The drummer and bassist also opposed each other, she stood tall in a short skirt and tie whilst he rocked a white t-shirt with “MUM” across it in red. A hint of heartfelt ambiguity goes hand in hand with the rock-star-girlfriend-chic essence.

Fehmi and Fenton gave us symmetry. They bounced off of each other in a polite manner, accompanying Cristante’s intonation with intentionality as the heels of her pointy-cowboy-esque boots tapped the stage in agreement. Nevertheless, each song they lulled caught a glimpse of every voice, or maybe their correspondence with one another was so precise that it persuaded the audience to think so.

Jezmi Tarik Fehmi, photo by Parisa Kimiaei

Another honourable mention was the single ‘punkt’ from Tracey Denim, which seemed to produce lively screams of relief from the crowd – as if that two and a half minutes were what they had been anticipating all night. Perhaps ‘punkt’ being my favourite track puts me in a biased position, but nothing beats the satisfaction of hearing each member take turns to tell their tales; giving the crowd a chance to feel every part of their unified narrative. It’s the kind of tension you get from a love triangle. Just imagine if you could cohesively experience Tashi, Art, and Patrick’s roles in Challengers and come out of it forgetting there was competition at all!

Despite the inconvenience of his instrument falling apart nearing the end of the set, the drummer did not stop going Whiplash on us. Terence Fletcher himself might have been tempted to torture him for his indisputable contribution towards making this gig remarkable. He threw his drumsticks proudly into the crowd when the set had ended, and whoever caught them might miraculously have found themselves waking up the next day as a pro drummer. Everything, from the band arising on stage to ‘Crazy Frog’, to the drummer’s intriguing but admirable “MUM” shirt, and the support act Triage being nothing short of a perfect match made for an unforgettable night.

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