Manchester Orchestra - The Ritz, Tampa, Florida - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Manchester Orchestra - The Ritz, Tampa, Florida

by Mark Moody Rating: Release Date:

With local schools and universities closed Thursday and Friday due to the approach of a Category 5 hurricane off the coast of Florida, a mid-week Wednesday night concert took on the tone of a weekend event.  With at least four days off ahead for most, the packed and rowdy crowd was right there with these bands from the beginning.  Night two of Manchester Orchestra’s (Andy Hull pictured above) A Black Mile to the Surface Tour arrived at the Ritz in Tampa as locals scrambled for bottled water and gasoline all over the city, both being in short supply.  The close to full house seemed to take no notice of any need for worldly concerns. 

Teddy Roberts, touring drummer for duo Tigers Jaw (Brianna Collins, Ben Walsh pictured below), was nice enough to meet me before the show to talk about the upcoming tour.  Roberts is a veteran of many tours, both with Tigers Jaw, but also as a member of punk bands Fireworks, and Loose Planes, while also finding time to record solo works under his own name and previously as Hampshire.  Earlier in the year, Tigers Jaw headlined throughout the U.K. and after the Manchester Orchestra tour the band has plans to play shows throughout South America.  Roberts said he had been in this bar strewn area of Tampa (Ybor City to be exact), about seven or eight times and that it was always unbearably humid.  That’s true about six months of the year, but undoubtedly being from up north I’m sure it takes on a different feel.  Roberts explained that Tigers Jaw will be stepping out for the tours’ Texas dates as co-leader, Brianna Collins, will be attending her brother’s wedding - such is the life of a latter day rock n’ roller.  Teddy was very down to earth and accommodating, belying his energetic stick work, and it was great to spend a few moments with him.

The early crowd was out in force, with the venue well more than half full as opener, St. Louis based Foxing, took the stage.  The band’s recorded work definitely has an emo bent, but with several years since their last release that was less apparent to me.  Fleshed out as a six piece band, with touring member Emma Tiemann on keys and violin, they evidenced a well honed instrumental attack - more setting a mood vs overly moody.  When they forged into the second song ‘The Medic’ off of 2014’s The Albatross, drummer, Jon Hellwig, expertly set the rolling melody in play while a quietly hyper, Eric Hudson, put down a slinky guitar line.  Lead singer, Conor Murphy, kept things interesting throughout their brief set, playing trumpet on ‘The Magdalene’ from their latest, but too long ago, release.  He even had the crowd singing along to ‘Rory’ - not bad for the first of three bands to have the crowd engaged at that level.  Murphy took time to express his care for the impending storm, even though betraying his Midwest roots by saying I’m not sure how far those things go.  A very engaging opening set, showing this band continues to mature over two years out from their last release.

They were followed by Pennsylvania band Tigers Jaw, who have soldiered on as a duo after most of the band departed en masse several years ago.  Co-leaders, Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh, took turns swapping vocals as the touring rhythm section of Roberts and bassist, Luke Schwartz, gamely kept things moving briskly along.  They were a punchier contrast to Foxing’s precision, with Walsh taking lead on ‘The Sun’ while Collins vocals and keys powered the poppier ‘June’ from this year’s solid spin album.  The band went all out on 2008’s excellent ‘Plane vs. Tank vs. Submarine’ with Walsh emoting “I can barely tell the sky from the shoreline” as the band kicked in.  As good as the recorded version is this was much more energetic.  The band built the perfect bridge to the power to come.

Andy Hull and his mates from Manchester Orchestra, as mentioned, are in the opening days of their U.S. tour in support of their A Black Mile to the Surface album released a few months back.  Personally, I’m a fan of the newer music and it was exciting to see it translate well with the audience in the opening moments of the show.  Hull started the show quietly with ‘The Maze’, and following the course of the album followed with ‘The Gold’, in a blaze of lights, and then with ‘The Moth’ all building in power.  The crowd was chanting the words to ‘The Gold’ which when Hull sang “I believed you were crazy” and the band kicked in much harder than the album, you knew these new tracks had heft.  Not to disappoint the longer term followers, there followed an extended set of earlier songs leading with a raw ‘Shake It Out’.  Not surprisingly the Florida crowd responded well to ‘Pensacola’ with the closing, if the shoe fits, mantra of “Alcohol, dirty malls, Pensacola, Florida bars”.  The band played as a cohesive and well-trained unit - loud and workmanlike with no showmanship, but keeping the crowd in tow.  Hull did try to engage the audience a bit, but met with flak from “the one in every crowd” instead plowed ahead. 

Green spotlights appropriately surrounded the band as they transitioned back into the newer material with ‘The Alien’ and it’s pairing duo of ‘The Sunshine’ and ‘The Grocery’.  The softer contrast of the new album’s songs definitely stand in contrast, but the harder edged tracks like ‘The Moth’ and ‘The Grocery’ laid up against older songs help to blur the lines of past and present.  Closing with the anthemic album ending ‘The Silence’ the band evidenced the strength to be found in the fragility of their new songs while not leaving their past behind.  The audience was right there with them throughout, showing we all have to grow up but we don’t have to grow old while we’re at it.  Fans of both the new album and their older material would do well to catch them as they have plenty of shows left to go.  They will be touring the U.S. for the next month and then starting across the pond at an already sold out show in their namesake city and playing several more dates throughout the U.K. and Europe into early November. 

Photo credits:  Christa Joyner Moody 

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