Manchester Orchestra Infuses The Anthem with Raw Energy

By Emily Vitek / November 28, 2018
Manchester Orchestra

From post-hardcore songs about loss and afterlife to gentler love songs and lullabies, Manchester Orchestra’s melodies encompass an overwhelming amount of emotion that combined with their stage presence creates nothing short of a surreal experience to witness. During their performance at The Anthem in Washington DC, fans in the crowd went from hastily jumping with their fits in the air to swaying back and forth with tears streaming down their faces.

Manchester Orchestra
Manchester Orchestra

Manchester Orchestra, an alternative rock band from Atlanta, stopped in DC for the third night of their fall co-headlining tour with New Jersey pop-punk band, The Front Bottoms. The tour started on November 21st in Atlanta with Manchester Orchestra’s annual event, “The Stuffing”. The fall tour was announced just a month after the release of Manchester Orchestra’s documentary, I Know How to Speak, which gave fans an insight to the making of their acclaimed album, A Black Mile to the Surface, released in July 2017. 

A Black Mile to the Surface, Manchester Orchestra’s fifth studio album, scatters imagery that references Lead, South Dakota, an old gold mining town that is currently home to the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. The album’s title is a direct reference to the experiment taking place a mile underground. The past few years have been busy for Manchester Orchestra, as a few of their members tried their hand at scoring a movie in addition to the new album and documentary. Andy Hull (vocals) and Robert McDowell (guitar) wrote and performed the soundtrack for Swiss Army Man, the 2016 film featuring Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe and Little Miss Sunshine’s Paul Dano.

Manchester Orchestra
Manchester Orchestra

Solo-artist Caroline Swon, also known as Brother Bird, started off the evening with a few gentle songs. Midway through her performance, Manchester Orchestra bassist Andy Prince surprised fans and joined Brother Bird on stage to accompany the rest of the set. The calming music was a perfect segway into the start of Manchester Orchestra’s set, where they opened with “The Maze”, the first song off A Black Mile to the Surface. On the pitch black stage, Hull sang the soft tune that he wrote from the perspective of his firstborn daughter, Mayzie, when she was only a few weeks old. 

Fans who had never seen Manchester Orchestra before stared in awe as they listened to the beautiful voice come from the bearded and burly Hull. But the gentle tone did not last for long, as they followed up with two of their heavier songs, “The Moth” and “Shake it Out”. Manchester Orchestra’s performance continued with a variety of hits off all their studio albums, including “I Can Barely Breathe” from their 2007 debut I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child. While the heavy guitar in songs like “Cope” asserts a sense of overwhelming power, the range of Hull’s captivating voice along with the pure emotion he produces makes even the most tender songs like “I Know How to Speak” leave a lasting impression on the audience.

Manchester Orchestra finished their performance with two of their most moving songs to date, “The Gold” and “The Silence”. A direct reference to the mining town, “The Gold” is written from the perspective of a miner’s wife and details the heartbreak associated with falling out of love.

Couldn't really love you anymore

You've become my ceiling

I don't think I love you anymore

That gold mine changed you

// "The Gold"  from A Black Mile to the Surface

“The Silence” brought the performance full circle, moving away from the upbeat melodies and returning to the slow yet stirring tone they opened with. The quiet song that starts off with Hull’s gentle voice backed with drums and piano, acts as a conversation between Hull, God, and Hull’s daughter. The song picks up with guitar towards the end where Hull speaks to his daughter and is so beautifully haunting that it knocks you off your feet.

Little girl, you are cursed by my ancestry

There is nothing but darkness and agony

I can not only see, but you stopped me from blinking

Let me watch you as close as a memory

Let me hold you above all the misery

Let me open my eyes and be glad that I got here

// "The Silence"  from A Black Mile to the Surface

The Front Bottoms

While Manchester Orchestra was not the headliner for the DC tour date, they certainly set the bar high for The Front Bottoms. With more lighthearted and upbeat jams, The Front Bottoms steered the evening in a different direction with trumpets and songs the crowd could dance along to. They played an even amount of songs off their four studio albums, along with their 2018 EP Ann. Noteworthy for their performance was the inclusion of a functional bar on stage, beer tap and all. Brian Sella (vocals) introduced one of the special bar patrons as his sister and continued with the performance while moving back and forth across the stage.

The Front Bottoms

The band was illuminated by multicolored lights that danced across the stage as they played fan favorites like “Maps”, “Twin Sized Mattress”, and “West Virginia”. Fans in the crowd were heard eagerly expressing their love for The Front Bottoms to one another, a few of who mentioned the evening was their third time seeing the band that year alone. The Front Bottoms ended their lively performance with an encore comprised of “12 Feet Deep” from their 2014 EP Rose, and “Ocean” from their 2017 album Going Grey.

The Front Bottoms
The Front Bottoms

While Manchester Orchestra’s and The Front Bottoms performances contrasted each other like day and night, their ying-yang dynamic made for a diverse musical experience filled with zest. The co-headlining tour will continue until mid-December with dates across the United States. If you missed their show in DC, Manchester Orchestra and The Front Bottoms will be coming back this way to perform two consecutive nights on December 12th and 13th at the Fillmore in Philadelphia. With their refined sound and passion that each member exhibits on stage, Manchester Orchestra’s awe-inspiring performance is a must see. In the meantime, you can check out Manchester Orchestra’s documentary I Know How to Speak below.

Videos

Videos

Videos


Setlist

Setlist

Setlist


Click here to see the setlist for Manchester Orchestra's performance at The Anthem on November 24th, 2018.

Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery


Enjoy photos by our photographer Emily Vitek of Emily Vitek Photography.

About the author

Emily Vitek

Emily is DMV native through and through, originally from the Washington DC suburbs, Emily is a photographer, videographer, and writer who has been photographing shows in the DC/MD/VA area since 2011. She has a degree in Electronic Media & Film production and currently works in Higher Education in Arlington, VA. Emily is an avid Disney lover and used to work at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL as a photographer. When not at shows, Emily enjoys watching the latest horror flick on Netflix or playing video games.