Judging from the queue down the street outside Manchester’s Deaf Institute, the word is obviously out. This was a sight rarely seen at this usually cool and relaxed venue. And it was a young crowd too, not the usual 6Music mob. I’m aware that I’m decrying my own demographic here, but there was nary a combat-jacketed 49 year old bloke in sight.
Once we were let in from the Sunday evening street chill, I continued to be impressed, as the front of the stage was immediately packed out four deep, much more purposeful than all those gigs where people line up for hours, then once inside seem to lose the will.
Opening, for tonight and for the tour, were Years & Years, and man but they were worth getting in early for. Young British urban sliced with well spoken soul garage. In the crowd, there were young men unashamedly dancing their socks off from the get-go on the front row. The band were very visibly stoked, feeding and bouncing off the crowd energy. Almost shocked, the band, maybe used to too-cool-for-school London, tell us this the best night of their week on tour and palpably mean it. So great was Years & Years impact that I feared I’d missed something, that this was who everyone was secretly here for, but no, this was just a very high starting point for the night.
MØ’s band and crew were setting up the stage. How can a band be so un-rock’n’roll as to be in track suits and running shoes, and at the same time, have their bottled lager in ice buckets, the better to stay cool? Oh, they’re Danish, say no more.
I’ve seen MØ precisely once before, in a very relaxed showcase setting with back-projectors, so it was stunning how that has now developed into this mad explosion of strobe lasers the moment she hit the stage. On reflection, it would actually have been stupid to expect anything different, the stage show following the same trajectory as her recorded music: the step jump being the Bikini Daze EP last October, with that Diplo collaboration on XXX 88 sealing the deal.
The crowd, who I’d been afraid had shot their load with the support, were mad for it and frenetic from her first step onto the stage. MØ didn’t stay on the stage for long, making multiple forays into crowd, her way through the dark throng lit by flashes from cameras and phones. The music varies from torch songs to dance bangers, and at that end of the spectrum, her single lengthy hair plait whirled like a helicopter. Everyone who plays the ‘deaf’ says it’s hot up there, but the sweat was dripping off the whole band.
Despite the crowd’s mad-for-it attitude, and despite MØ working the crowd like a pro, prowling and leaning over the front of the stage, descending time and again into the audience, there was a curious politeness. No-one is high-fiving or holding hands with her, no need for bouncers or barriers, but this degree of respect shown does nothing whatsoever to diminish the energy of what has to be up there as one of THE gigs of the last twelve months.
The debut album ‘No Mythologies To Follow’ isn’t officially out until the next day, and to my disappointment isn’t being sneakily sold from the merch stand. On the other hand, courtesy of the EP, and also of a promo-sampler that’s been doing the rounds, there’s only a couple on the set list that are not already out there. Songs like XXX 88 are as anthemic as they are hooky, and the crowd sing their lungs out. For the encore, MØ makes reference to Girl Power (then, being a democratic Dane, says that Boy Power is also allowed) before treating us to a cover of the Spice Girls ‘Say You’ll Be There’. Do you know what? MØ’s own songwriting is at least as strong. The final song is ‘Waste Of Time’, with that curious aching croon in the chorus.
I could be part of this all night, but that’s it, they’re off stage and the lights are on. In fact, I want to do this all over again right now – damn, I knew I should have gone to the Leeds gig as well.