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Manchester Orchestra, Balance and Composure and Kevin Devine @ The TLA.

May 27, 2014

BC3Text and images by Brendan Menapace.

You can tell when bands that tour together are actually friends. You can see them on the side of the stage, bobbing their heads, watching their tour mates. In the case of last night’s show, they invite them on stage to participate multiple times. On Saturday, the TLA hosted night 1 of sold out shows for Manchester Orchestra, Balance and Composure (above) and Kevin Devine & the God Damn Band.

The night started with an energetic, albeit sleep-deprived Kevin Devine & the God Damn Band. Devine had just driven all night from Boston the night before and gotten into town at six in the morning, only to do an in-store performance at Main Street Music in Manayunk in the afternoon.   He was a little less chatty than he has been in past performances, but this only left room for more music during a relatively short opening set. After a few songs from his new albums Bulldozer and Bubblegum, the crew started loading in a second drum set and Kevin introduced “his son,” Balance drummer Bailey Van Ellis to add some extra drums to his hit “Cotton Crush.”

“You are all in for a treat,” Devine said at one of the few times he did step to the mic. “You have your own Balance and Composure. And from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Manchester Orchestra.”

The crowd went nuts. Keep in mind, Manchester Orchestra is from Atlanta.

Balance and Composure certainly seemed happy to be back in Philadelphia. Vocalist/guitarist Jon Simmons actually did a little dancing. The semi-sedate crowd during Kevin Devine had now all but filled up the TLA, and the shoving started.

In contrast to the upbeat and poppier melodies of Devine, Balance’s set was full of their low, heavy shoegazey sound, opening the night with “Quake,” off of their LP, Separations. Even in a sold out TLA crowd, there’s always room to open up a circle and throw a few fists. Guys in tank tops and Flyers gear had obviously been waiting all night for this moment and the crowd churned with the lava-lamp visuals reflecting off of the back of the stage, modeled off of the album cover for their latest release, “The Things We Think We’re Missing.” With a genuine thank you to the crowd, Simmons said that they were done, and Manchester Orchestra would be next.

I’ve seen a lot of bands that are known for an intense live set and Manchester Orchestra made them all look weak. The stage was only adorned with a white banner in the back with huge black letters – COPE – the cover of their new album. The stage lights were mostly red and white, matching the color aesthetic that vocalist Andy Hull used to describe the new album. For most of the set, a red light reflected off Hull’s face, making the whole thing a lot heavier.

They opened their set with the guitar-driven track “Shake It Out” from their sophomore LP Mean Everything To Nothing. Hull’s vocals were all but drowned out by the crowd, matching every word he sang. Hull recollected that the first time they were in Philly, none of us were … because they played to the bartender and sound guy at North Star. They were all under age, so they had to sit outside the bar in Philadelphia winter weather.

“Philadelphia scared me for a really long time,” Hull said. “But now I absolutely fucking love it.”

Throughout the pounding set, mixed with songs from all of their albums, their energy did not wane a bit. They closed their set by introducing a guest.

“At five-foot-nine, the red genius, Kevin Devine!” Hull said.

Devine did a little dance coming out to the stage. Hull made him go back and do it again.

“I’ve known you for eight years and I’ve never once see you do that dance,” Hull remarked.

After another introduction, Devine came out and kissed Hull on the cheek, and they played the track “42,” a slow, harmony-filled track by their side project Bad Books. With little notice, they quietly left the stage.

Just in case anyone had gotten sleepy during the last track, they woke them up with the stutter-stepped opener from Cope, “Top Notch.”

“I don’t know if it’s the whole two night thing,” Hull said. “But we just really feel like playing a whole bunch of tunes for you guys.”

The crowd was ecstatic but unfortunately, that was the set-up for their last song, “Where Have You Been?” from their first album.

Going along with the theme of inviting their friends to sing, Jon Simmons swooped back onto the stage to scream into the mic one last time for the songs heavy bridge and then turned around and joined the rest of his band to watch the finale.

Hull dropped his guitar to hum through the speakers and took the mic off the stand to sing the outro.  Eventually, he dropped the mic, looked at the crowd and gave a silent wave. One by one, the band members dropped their equipment and walked off until it was only drums, and then nothing, leaving the crowd to contemplate what just happened.

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