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Fans embrace mixed sound of Manchester Orchestra

Courtesy of Ryan Russell

The Lifestyle Communities Pavilion was full of students wearing Ohio State sweatshirts, middle-aged men clutching pints of draft beer and women swaying in their heels to the music playing over the speakers.

The diverse crowd was indicative of the music soon to be played. The band Manchester Orchestra has a cumulative identity that embodies elements of indie, alternative and heavy-metal rock.

The audience came together, crowding the stage Wednesday night as Manchester Orchestra opened the show at 8:45 p.m. with “Virgin,” from its recently-released album, “Simple Math.”

The heavy song set an eerie mood, but introduced a sense of unity between the audience and the band as they sang, “We built this house with our hands, and our time, and our blood.”

As the show began, fans’ claims about Manchester Orchestra’s live performances rang true. The songs took on an entirely different feel than the recorded versions, dramatically heightening the rock aspect. The band sounded more authentic, but with some screaming thrown in, similar to the band Brand New.

Ethan Rivera, a 2009 OSU alumnus, said he’s seen Manchester Orchestra perform about seven times and thinks the music sounds completely different.

“You haven’t heard a Manchester Orchestra song until you hear it live,” Rivera said. “Especially since he doesn’t remember half (of) his lyrics. It’s so much better that way.”

After the first few songs, the band’s hard-and-soft pattern became evident. Songs like “Pride” began with raw vocals and light strumming of the electric guitar, but then hard chords and dramatic drumbeats transformed the performance into a heavy-hitting lyric.

The audience fist-pumped with beers in the air as the band head-banged its way through the song. There would be a break back to vocals and guitar, but then the full force of the group would return. Surprisingly, the transitions fit the songs well and weren’t awkward.

Pat Hoehn, a 2010 OSU alumnus who has seen Manchester Orchestra live about as many times as Rivera, said there is an interesting difference between hearing a band live and hearing their songs after production.

“You get to see the energy and the stage presence,” Hoehn said. “I think it kind of gives the music more emotion when you go to listen to it on record.”

Manchester Orchestra’s set wasn’t all heavy, once melody escaped from the electric guitars, like in “April Fool.” The performance was a little messier than the recording, but was appropriate for the setting.

Brad Hurak, a fifth-year in mechanical engineering and Spanish, said he first saw Manchester Orchestra five years ago when it opened for Brand New at the Newport Music Hall.

“I barely gave them a listen before I saw them the first time, but after their live performance … I couldn’t help but to go back,” he said.

Surprisingly, the band pulled off songs like “Simple Math,” the title track from the new album, incorporating a sound reminiscent of the band Death Cab for Cutie.

Distinct lyrics and falsetto harmonies were mixed in with the cleaner guitar parts, providing a refreshing break from the heavier rock.

Ben Fischer, a fourth-year in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, said he expected Manchester Orchestra to mix tracks from the new album with older songs.

“You can’t do a whole lot of songs that no one knows,” he said.

Luke Borten, a student at Cincinnati Christian University, said he was impressed with the quality of the new songs from “Simple Math.”

“In fact, they seemed a lot less sloppy on those songs than they did on some of the other ones,” he said.

The performance of “Colly Strings” brought a new level of emotion to the show, which was evident in lead singer Andy Hull’s face as he sang, “Confessingly, this is the first time I’ve loved you.”

Comically at the end, Hull said he had to apologize for taking some emotion out of the song, because he witnessed a guy in the pit urinate himself during the performance. The audience laughed as Hull said it was the funniest thing he’s ever seen.

Soon, the audience was back to fist pumping and raging in the pit, while Chris Freeman dramatically played the keyboard and drums. Freeman was not alone in head banging, as guitarist Robert McDowell was swinging his hair violently back and forth.

Kara Glaser, a second-year in pre-art education at OSU Newark, said she had only heard one song before the show, a track coincidentally named “The Only One.” But she said she would see the band again based on Wednesday’s show, even though the pit was crazy.

“I would just have to listen to their music more. I don’t think I’d go in the pit again,” she said.

Manchester Orchestra closed out their show with their most popular and upbeat track, “I’ve Got Friends.” The audience participated even more during this song, with one listener fiercely playing air guitar and tapping his foot as he sang along.

Quebec “Q” Gibbins from Canton, Ohio, said this first experience seeing the band live was top-notch, and the new album mixed well with the other songs.

“It’s a lot more (of a) relaxed album compared to all the other ones,” Gibbins said. “The other ones had a lot more grit to them.”

The band members ended their last song by thanking the audience and reaching out to shake hands with the front-row fans. Many attendees were thrilled with Manchester’s performance, and embraced their mixed rock distinctiveness.

Jon Cheyney, a second-year at Otterbein University, said Wednesday’s show was the third time he’s seen Manchester Orchestra live and was the best show yet. He said the new album was darker, but also what listeners expected.

“It was a different twist, but still like ‘Oh, this is Manchester,'” Cheyney said.

Dominic Porretta, a second-year at Otterbein, said after seeing Manchester Orchestra for the first time, the band is 10 times better live than on the albums.

“They totally blew away my expectations,” he said. “I was worried they were just going to play all their new stuff tonight, but I thought they had a really good blend of everything (from) all their albums.”

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