There is a reposing stillness within the cavernous, bunker-like main room of Gorilla, befitting to the band that are soon to take to stage. Big Thief, after having released their harrowingly beautiful debut album Masterpiece earlier in the summer, tonight, make their first ever UK appearance in Manchester in support of M. Ward.
Fronted by lead singer Adrianne Lenker, the band airily enter the stage and without addressing the audience, Adrianne gently pierces the air with the first few notes of ‘Lorraine’. Her voice effortlessly floating out, with the grace and fragility of an aged country singer. Her bands’ gaze drawn upon her, they are as enchanted as we are. This lenitive lullaby rings out, the full band come into play, as they crash into new song ‘Shark’s Smile’. Guitarist Buck Meek, offers wavy guitar lines, as he jitters, quivers and frantically plucks at his strings at the side of the stage, whilst Drummer Jason Burger and bassist Max Oleartchik evoke a wild and coursing pulse to the music. The bands’ dynamic enables them to elicit the harmonious nostalgia and placidity of country music, with the riling and at times visceral edge of rock; cutting a boxy acoustic sound with the scold of jeering grunge.
The band loosen up to the crowd, Adrianne Confesses it’s her first time overseas and reveals her relief in the gratifying nature of the Manchester crowd “I thought it would be different, but there’s just more human beings, we’re all human beings”. Their amicability and rooted nature is palpable.
On stage, the band successfully portray the pain, darkness and bitterness that runs through Masterpiece. ‘Real Love’ allows the opportunity for Adrianne to show off her vocal range, as her heavenly croon tears into a harrowing cry, as she sears “real love is a heart attack”. Throughout incredibly delicate points of their set, they are able to convey both an uneasy angst and a gentle reassurance, songs like ‘Paul’ and ‘Velvet Ring’, have you feeling like they could crack at any moment, through quivers and arched sonic resilience they keep it together.
Closing the set with the punchy ‘Humans’, Big Thief are in full flow, as the song descends into a tidal wave of shrieking guitars and crashing cymbals. The audience are left in the wake of a deep, but raw and impassioned performance. Particularly impressive for a band who only dropped onto the scene a few months previous, and already look like an accomplished and seasoned outfit.