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Live Review: Yo La Tengo at Academy 2

Much like the most recent Manchester derby, Yo La Tengo’s gig at Academy 2 was a game of two halves.  Known for their massive discography and devout cult fandom, they attracted a savvy, locked-in crowd for their gig at Academy 2.  They ran with a double set with no support acts, opening up with an ethereal collection of songs from the more folky, psychedelic side of their catalogue.  The venue suited this aesthetic well, and the way the hushed guitars and double bass timbres of tunes like ‘The Crying Lot of G’ reverberated around the vast space was a real treat for the ears.  Dream-pop number ‘Nowhere Near’ was a standout moment of the night, enrapturing the crowd with its subdued beauty and Georgia Hubley’s delicate vocals. They closed the first set with ‘Here You Are’, a cut from their new record ‘There’s a Riot Going On’, which sat comfortably alongside older material, proving their music has lost none of their vitality over the years.

A short interval separated the two sets, and as punters topped up on pints and snuck outside for cigarettes, Yo La Tengo dusted off their distortion pedals in preparation for a much harsher second set.  Ira Kaplan swapped the whispered vocals of the first half for screeches and yelps set against walls of guitar feedback, chugging drums and zany keyboard motifs. ‘False Alarm’ from 1995’s ‘Electr-O-Pura’ was one such tune, and a timely reminder of the band’s vital place in the 90’s alt-rock ecosystem.  As the set drew to a close, the krautrock and shoegaze stylings of fan favourite ‘Sugarcube’ ignited the Academy with a maelstrom of abrasive guitar licks.  During the encore Kaplan told the crowd he would ‘‘honour the city’s musical heritage’’, and despite a few tongue-in-cheek calls to cover ‘Wonderwall’ from some members of the crowd, they opted instead for ‘Dream On’ by Herman’s Hermits.  There is a reason why Yo La Tengo is probably your favourite artists’ favourite artist, and why they have always been a staple of nerdy conversations in record shops; with an expansive back catalogue and a stonking live show to boot, its hard to see their relevance waning anytime soon.  

Live Review: Alvvays at Academy 2

Since forming in 2011, Alvvays (pronounced always) have crafted a jangly, dream-pop aesthetic
brimming with Greta Gerwig-esque charm which last year garnered critical acclaim on their sophomore
LP ‘Antisocialites’. Antisocialites marked a clear improvement from their self-titled debut in terms of
song writing and production value, with front woman Molly Rankin delivering a stunning performance

As I arrived the support band ‘Spinning Coin’ were already underway. Spinning Coin offered a stark
contrast in voices between the 2 main vocalists on stage, with the abrasive vocals of Jack Mellin cutting
across the more delicate tones of Sean Armstrong. This partnership offered an interesting dynamic to
the Glaswegian outfit’s sound and I enjoyed the energy they brought to their set.

The headliners approached the stage to a swarm of pastel coloured patterns and static projected upon
them before playing the opening track of their latest album ‘In Undertow’. The crowd responded with
warm cheers as Kerri MacLellan’s arpeggiated synth draws the song to a close and Rankin remarked with
a smile, “Do you know what I like about Manchester? It doesn’t matter if it’s a Monday night”. Alvvays
continue to pull out hits, with “Plimsol Punks” and “Archie, Marry Me” following shortly after. One
striking difference between watching the band live and listening to their records is how much more
prominent Rankin’s vocals are. Almost as a trope of the genre her angelic voice merges with the
shimmering instrumentation on their records, but live she truly was the focal point of the music. This
was never more the case than half way through their set when the lights dimmed, and a spot light shone
upon her for ‘Forget About Life’. The crowd sang every lyric back to Rankin as the thudding toms from
Sheridan Riley started to deliver a pulsating rhythm building in a small crescendo. After a brief exodus
from the stage for one of the most predictable and redundant encores I have ever witnessed, the band
re-emerged to play ‘Party Police’. Throughout the show it was endearing how enamoured the band
were with the sincere response they received from the crowd.

After watching Alvvays live, I must admit I am now a bigger fan. They have a charm and brilliance which
you can’t fully appreciate from their exploits on record. If you are a fan, make sure you make effort to
catch them live as it does breathe new life into their music.




Jack Walker for Fuse FM.