Under the disco lights of Manchester’s New Century Hall, Squid were electric, industrious, and transcendental, completely devoid of disappointment. Natalie Howarth had the pleasure of seeing Squid at their absolute best on the O Monolith Tour.
Brighton-based post punk, krautrock quintet delivered a visceral and vivacious show, exhibiting their natural dynamic as a band, even after their extensive summer circuit and current tour around the UK. I was intrigued by the unconventionality of the band’s presence on stage with drummer and vocals Ollie Judge positioned at the front and centre of the stage with the members lined up besides him. An unexpected band formation that subverts all expectations of performance and dynamics, however also it gave all the musicians an equal standing on stage, making everyone’s roles seem as significant on stage (rightly so!); I wish more bands took this approach, especially in venues with larger stages.
A momentous track that progresses from soft to bold and brassy, a song that can be defined by its mode of experimentation
The prospect of seeing a gig at New Century Hall is a real treat: an iconic venue marked by a rich musical history, hosting the likes of The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and more. Located in Manchester City Centre, New Century Hall is a stunning venue that has reopened in the last year following its refurbishment that restored its original dancefloor. After seeing Black Country, New Road at the venue earlier this year, I had great expectations that were definitely exceeded.
For their opening, each member emerged one at a time, inviting each other with percussion before performing the first and highly anticipated ‘Swing (In A Dream)’ from the newly released sophomore album, O Monolith. A momentous track that progresses from soft to bold and brassy, a song that can be defined by its mode of experimentation with mechanical rhythms that consist of guitar’s riffs and a dreamy synth. Followed by the intermission of Laurie Nankivell’s brass riff uplifted the crowd; to see this song live and in motion was unforgettable.
Prior to their second track, Ollie provided us with the fact that New Century Hall homes the longest ashtray in Europe, a surprising piece of trivia that I probably will not forget. ‘If You Had Seen the Bull’s Swimming Attempts You Would Have Stayed Away’, a track title infused with absurdity that delivered quite the opposite: carefully crafted live with their avant-garde airs flowing and following onto ‘Undergrowth’, a moment of eruption that flooded into the crowd. I think it is very fair that the set list was carefully curated to achieve a seamlessly flowing quality into each song.
As multi-instrumentalists, it is so impressive to see the constant demand in changing and adapting to different instruments. I was stood a couple rows back from the stage in front of cellist, keyboardist, and percussionist Arthur Leadbetter whose electric cello I was massively hyper-fixated on. It did not really resemble the look of a traditional cello, it had a look of free-standing strings, without its body or any embellishments.
Ollie Judge’s unfaltering energy throughout the duration of the set was impressive
‘G.S.K.’ got the crowd moving which is absurd considering the lyrics scrutinise the mundanity of a modern office job and the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (G.S.K.): “On Concrete Island, well, I’ve been here too long”. I really loved seeing the track replicate into a live performance as an embodiment of the reactionary post-Brexit new wave of music. ‘Narrator’ maintained that high energy following on from ‘G.S.K’, an eight-minute-long crescendo track that ends with shrieking instrumentation: Ollie Judge’s unfaltering energy throughout the duration of the set was impressive!
Ending the setlist with ‘The Blades’, a song that has an eclectic feel with its constant layered and changing sound throughout: it has a softer sound rather than the previous tracks on the set list. As the band departed the stage, I felt a pang of sadness as it was one of the most enjoyable gig experiences I have had in a long time.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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