Manchester's rich and storied musical history has, and continues to, produce / inspire some of the finest and most innovative bands in the world.
One such band are Doves, whose songs proudly echo the city's influences - both literally and spiritually. Their epic / melancholic songs, offer many, many layers and have a filmic quality, which at times, lies in-between enigmatic and intense.
Rising from the ashes of early '90s dance outfit Sub Sub, Doves' tirelessly nurtured music, though dark, is dynamic, inventive, melodic, intelligent and accessible.
Some Cities, the band's third studio LP, entered the Album Chart at #1, with many reviewers calling it "an early marker for album of the year. " In fact, Arena proclaimed it "their best yet," whilst The Fly enthusiastically declared, "Doves have created something of accomplished beauty, and in doing so, may just have become the best band in Britain."
Unlike the current crop of new bands, including Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, The Killers etc., who are arguably known for their fashion sense as much as their records, Doves seem far less concerned with image, preferring instead, to stand behind their music.
As Jimi Goodwin (bass / lead vocals), Jez Williams (guitar / vocals) and Andy Williams (drums / vocals) take their positions on stage - augmented by Martin Rebelski (keyboards), the lighting remains dark and eerily atmospheric, with the exception of a few clear glimpses of each member here and there. Coincidentally, with his new long hair and beard, Jimi now resembles a younger Peter Hook from New Order.
Pounding is a superb opener to tonight's set, and with its driving beat and majestic chorus, it certainly pounds and pounds and pounds, thus energising the audience right from the start. Jez then takes over vocal duties for the uplifting Words, which due to his poppier voice, has a very different feel to Doves' trademark sound. As he optimistically sings "Words they mean nothing, so you can't hurt me," his spiralling / chiming guitar riffs defiantly slice through the air.
Andy's thumping percussion, then signals the start of Black & White Town, which with it's turbo-charged onslaught, deals with teenage boredom, inner-city hardships and wanting to escape the urban desolation of a satellite town. It is also a good indication of what to expect from Some Cities - as this monolithic theme has resulted in something of a concept album.
After a surging NY, Jimi lights up a cigarette and jokingly tells us, that this theatre reminds him of "old John Hughes high school prom movies," which in all fairness, is a rather accurate observation. Sea Song is then followed by The Strokes-esque Sky Starts Falling, and a pastoral Caught By The River.
Jimi thanks us for buying Some Cities and says "we hope you like it," before the band play two new songs from the LP, One Of These Days and the splendid orchestral Snowden, which with its lush deep soundscape, is extremely well crafted.
Similarly, the fluttering Almost Forgot Myself, is saturated with intimacy and poignancy, and the lyrics have a haunting truth that really absorb you. Jez's irresistible guitar hook, also accompanies Jimi's alluring vocals perfectly.
The Last Broadcast, Darker, and the hushed Ambition are equally impressive, but it is the masterfully composed The Cedar Room, which receives an overwhelming response from the crowd. At nearly 8 minutes, and along with the abstract video shown on the film projection screen, it takes you on a wonderful anthemic journey, that you wished never had to end.
Before Doves' encore, Jimi asks, "Would you like us to play some more songs for you?" To which our positive cheers result in two thumbs up, and a beaming smile from him. He then takes over the drums and with Andy lending his vocals to each verse, sings the chorus on the brooding Here It Comes.
Satellites' gospel-tinged harmonies are heart-warming, and as Jimi sings "I want you to know this, my anger's all but done, sweet lord, I swear I've seen the darkness, sweet lord, I swear I've seen some pain," its blissful wall of sound sweeps you away.
Afterwards, he says, "This is the last one, goodnight and god bless." It couldn't be anything else but, the thrilling There Goes The Fear.
With its imaginative structure and the key lyric, "You turn around
and life's passed you by," this sublime fusion of classic rock
and Latin salsa rhythms, features a tumbling drumbeat that pulses and
grows beneath the floating melody, before the increasingly carnival
flavour, culminates with a samba drum solo. Truly a modern classic and
an excellent end to the night.
Infused with yearning, sadness and hope, this is spectral Northern Soul at its very best!