Before they took the stage, I had practically no clue what the Manchester Orchestra sound was. I vividly remember seeing Foxing and Tigers Jaw — two of my favorites — announced as openers for this tour, hitting stages I never even dreamed they’d reach when I was 16. Yet, by Manchester Orchestra’s moniker, I assumed they were a plain-Jane indie outfit. I could not have been more wrong.
After I was knocked on my ass by Manchester Orchestra’s performance, the brilliance in their choice of tour-mates hit me like a truck.
Foxing’s elaborate compositions and powerful presence set the mood at the Fillmore in Detroit. They’re a band that is really hard to ignore just by the sheer force of their music, and even though the stage was far larger than any I’d seen them play on, frontman Conor Murphy demanded attention with his soaring vocals and occasional trumpeting. The beautiful band even did us the service of playing a brand new song off their forthcoming record, which showed promise.
Next came indie rock outfit Tigers Jaw. Fresh off the release of their album spin this year, the band played a surprisingly lengthy set, full of new songs with a sprinkling of classics. Singles like “Guardian” and “June” from this year’s release still hold up as some of the most solid of the year, while “The Sun” and “Chemicals” have remained staples in their sets for a while now. Truthfully, I think everyone on this planet should be seeing and hearing Tigers Jaw, and their performance last Wednesday only reaffirmed my devotion. Their mix of an emo sensibility and commercial accessibility of wonderfully composed indie punk rock make them all too easy to fall in love with.
Manchester Orchestra proceeded to rip through a 17 track set, each new song pulling myself and the crowd into a deeper understanding of their gorgeous music — a vast, diverse hybridization of intimacy and raucousness. After frontman Andy Hull started passionately screaming on the chorus of the fourth song “Shake It Out,” I was hooked.
Touring in support of 2017’s atmospheric, moody release A Black Mile To The Surface, new material composed a little under half of their set. They sprinkled in crowd pleasers like “I’ve Got Friends” and “The River,” producing mirrored passion in a crowd that yelled every word back at the band — passion indicative of a typical emo and punk show. It dawned on me, suddenly, that Manchester Orchestra is an emo band, despite their indie associations.
It was on this basis, this foundation of talent, that Manchester Orchestra and their tour mates succeeded in moving an entire room of people (those smart enough to have ended up at the Fillmore, instead of the poor souls down the street watching America’s favorite panderer of mediocre folk pop, Ed Sheeran). By perfecting their loud-soft dynamic, Hull and company crashed wave after wave of emotion down on the crowd with the help of vocals ranging from tender croons to piercing yells, booming riffs and elegant piano melodies. The sheer versatility of the band’s musicianship is as incredible a spectacle to see as it is to hear. In the span of an hour, Manchester Orchestra turned me from a bastard hipster showing up for the lesser known openers into a rabid fan, an accomplishment as rare as a solar eclipse.