Live Review: Black Country New Road at New Century, Manchester

Skiddle were at the New Century in Manchester to see Black Country New Road on their UK tour for their new album 'Live at Bush Hall', check out what we thought below!

Thomas Hirst

Date published: 10th May 2023

What is there to be said about this band that hasn't already been etched in stone on the walls of music publications and the Twitter threads of genre nuts? The sextet of Georgia Ellery, Tyler Hyde, Charlie Wayne, Luke Mark, May Kershaw and Lewis Evans, have been through so many challenges as members of Black Country, New Road. A global pandemic stunted their beginnings, their lead singer was forced to leave to preserve his mental health, and they have gone through a complete rebrand sonically. Yet their recent gig at Manchester’s New Century, showcased a remarkable transformation, solidifying their departure from the previous era and redefining their musical identity, emerging like a corduroy-clad phoenix from their own ashes.

With the set mostly following tracks list from their ‘Live at Bush Hall’ LP, the band presented their new pluralistic approach to vocals excellently, the shifting in singers not only emphasise their collective musical camaraderie since Isaac's departure (a departure noted to be partly fuelled by the sheer mental weight of the gigs riding on his vocal performance) but also provide a depth not found in their previous lineup, due mainly to how the diverse sounds of each of their voices pave the way for exploration init new sonic territoires. 

Such songs, also more orchestral in nature than their previous incarnations, exhibit careful structuring and theatricality. Each track featured abrupt musical shifts, allowing the band to weave narratives with finesse and character. Shades of contemporaries Deathcrash and Caroline could be glimpsed, adding depth to their newfound sonic palette; but the six are still truly their own beast. 

From the very first wonky brass notes of "Up Song," it was clear that Black Country New Road's gig was to be a mesmerizing journey into their redefined musical identity. The crowd was instantly captivated, but despite now knowing the lyrics, there was still utmost respect for those on stage. Lyrics are mumbled under a breath by fans, with no one wanting to upset the carefully curated balance of what was before them. 

This display of reverence towards the band on stage is a rarity at gigs, a testament to the outstanding vulnerability and gentleness showcased frivolously throughout the night. While this may appear selfish to the uninitiated, true fans, particularly following Isaac's departure, hold this sentiment close to their hearts. 

As the track descended into heady orchestral serendipity, with hushed vocals from bassist Tyler Hyde eventually reaching a crescendo, the audience was given their first opportunity  to belt out the key tagline of the new record: “BC, NR, friends forever.” A notion that encaptures everything this band is about. They are friends, always have been and always will be 

As the gig went mesmerically through the motions of the Live At Bush Hall LP, you could not help but notice the band's settled demeanour and newfound confidence. Having seen them last summer in an earlier state of their reincarnation, where the same songs seemed slightly unsure and reserved, they now exude refinement and mastery, representing the very best versions of themselves. While many were anxious about the band ever matching the heights of "Ants From Up There", it is clear from what is happening on stage that the Black Country, New Road arent. Not because they feel confident they can replicate it, but because they don't want to, and have embraced the desire to forge a unique path forward, whatever happens. 

One of the main delights of the set was the new tracks interspersed within it; offering a glimpse into the band's future, and it’s brighter than you could ever have hoped. "Horses" and "Nancy Tries To Take The Night" stood out not only as new tracks but as highlights of the whole set, arguably surpassing most of the Live at Bush Hall material. In typical fashion, the new tracks embark on musical journeys, traversing various landscapes, reaching exhilarating heights, and cascading like sonic streams that lead to waterfalls. But despite being recognisably them, they felt like strides forward into this new soundscape they inhabit and emphatically signalled that the best from Black Country, New Road is yet to come.

“Turbines/Pigs” followed the two aforementioned new tracks, and it’s clear to see why it’s a fan favourite from Live at Bush Hall. The near-10-minute track is goosebump-inducing, gorgeously crafted and sung, and feels wise beyond their years. As the lights on the stage focused solely on May Kershaw for the solo-piano opening, and slowly, as the song progresses, reveal the rest as they come in, it was true magic.

"Dancers" emerged from the aftermath of this run excellently. A track that revels in the subtleties of each member’s instruments. The band effortlessly allows the track to breathe and scream, finding a delicate balance between chaos and anticipation. The intricacy and finesse here are a testament to their musical prowess and maturity as a collective.

As the lonely piano lick that mirrors the main vocal line of "Up Song" reverberated through the venue during the track's reprise, it became clear that Black Country New Road have emerged from their trials stronger than ever. Their music speaks volumes, telling sonically driven stories filled with vulnerability, depth, and a unique sense of artistry. This gig served as a testament to their growth, artistic vision, and the unwavering support of their devoted faithful. 

With each song, they shattered preconceived notions, distancing themselves from genre labels and embracing their own unique musical trajectory. This performance showcased a band unnerved by their trials and tribulations, a band of dizzying musical prowess and originality, and a band that has absolutely no desire to slow things down. They may not be the same band you fell in love with, but they're going to make you fall for them all over again. Catch them whenever and wherever you can. They are truly a once-in-a-generation group of musicians. 




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