GIG REVIEW – AS IT IS – 28/11/18 MANCHESTER

As It Is are lined up to play their biggest Manchester show to date – headlining the O2 Ritz. Moving from a pop-punk happiness to a much darker ’emo’ style, it’s safe to say a happy-go-lucky bubblegum pop atmosphere was not to be achieved.
While the band have been around for years, Canadian synth-rock Courage My Love (6.5) supporting large shows on the scale of the Ritz isn’t their forte yet. First on, the struggled to form a connection with a crowd of unresponsive attendees and despite Mercedes’s beautiful vocals and attempts, little could be done to capture a crowd. Through no fault of their own, perhaps it was just a tough crowd. The trio are excellent performers, aside from a slight sound issue causing the bass to smother the guitars, they are indeed a very tight band musically. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t their night.
 
Don’t be surprised when we say Holding Absence (9) are one of the bands on the cusp of breaking out in 2019. Already building a reputation in the scene, the quintet embodied a heavier side of music fans were perhaps not expecting. Instantaneous energy and brilliant stage presence, there was no holding back even in slower tracks ‘Everything’. Musicality was on point as well as stage presence and audience connectivity. If one point was to be made, perhaps more on-stage connection between band members, but otherwise this is a band you will hear a lot about soon.
 
Finally, after embarking on their first UK tour by As It Is in 2015, Trash Boat (7.5) return as supports once again. Generating the largest crowd of fans in the audience, the participation and enjoyment from crowdsurfing fanatics and mosh pit enthusiasts was through the roof. Yet, the bands performance seemed to lack. After witnessing the performance previous runners Holding Absence gave, there was a lacking stage atmosphere. Undoubtedly, the outfit were strong musically, but there was little to make them stand out, little to push them out to those unaware of who they were. An improvement they can work on.
 
Edinburgh’s show turned out to be quite the disaster. Sets being cut short and violent security, As It Is (9) we’re clearly unamused by the events of the previous night. Yet, with a day off before Manchester, the band had recouped to give it their all for this show, notably the biggest performance to date in Manchester.
 
Building a bridge with an audience is fundamental for any live show, and such levels of doing so can easily be seen. Patrick Foley on drums, we will give a pass to. Spending a good half of the show hidden behind a smoke screen (despite a higher platform) its also not easy to give much interaction from so far at the back. What can be said however, is that it can be rather embarrassing when your touring guitarist Ronnie interacts more with the audience than some of the others. Older tracks dug out from the discography ‘No Way Out’ and ‘Can’t Save Myself’ saw lead vocalist Patty Walters moving across the stage singing to front. Yet, it did feel connectivity from bassist Ali Testo lacked majorly in comparison. Granted, it is hard to multitask with instruments and backing vocals, but if guitar/vocalist Ben Langford-Biss can do it, what is the excuse?
 
Harshness aside, an onstage connection between the band could be felt. It’s clear these tracks mean a lot to the group. One of the more emotional connections came mid-way through a the set, slowing down the pace with ‘The Question, The Answer’ and ‘Still Remembering’. Looking in-depth it is almost as if there is a small shift in the emotion of Walters, between gaps going up to fellow band mates mouthing the words ‘I fucking love you’. To see songs played so much still striking deep in the performers is a sight that is heart-warming, as well as showing the depth the band encapsulate in music. A song, perhaps unexpected in the set was ‘The Great Depression’s’ closing track ‘The End’. As a conceptual stage show, voiceovers and formulated colour schemes added to the atmospheric feel. As It Is had an idea for this stage show, but at time almost felt like they were holding back. Going full out could really skyrocket this show, perhaps a thought for their upcoming American show. Aside from a slight timing issue on the spoken word bridge of the closing track, a clever way to end the show.
 
But it’s the performance in the encore of previous and new singles saw energy ramp up ten-fold, something incredible from a band already giving a high percentage of their energy in the show. Ending on ‘Dial Tones’, ‘The Wounded World’ and ‘The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry) pushed a strong end to the show. This group know how to structure a set. Even to the last minute all was given, with ‘The Stigma’ perhaps gaining the largest reaction of fans.
 
As It Is are pushing an important message in their music. To see a room of 1000+ people of all ages singing back such meaningful lyrics and embracing who they are is a beautiful sight. Such connections in the scene may be depleting but shows like this prove that there are still sparks in the darkness.
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