Live Review

Girls, Manchester, Night And Day Cafe

On record Girls have always sounded heartbreaking, but actually seeing the band on stage really brings it home.

Girls’

own remarkable story of ascendancy is only topped by the life story of lead singer Christopher Owens himself. Coming out of the Children of God cult, he was abandoned by his father and made to suffer through his brother’s death and his Mother’s prostitution due to the cult. Seeing him on stage feels like a privilege, but it’s the music, and not his back-story, that has brought him this far. To say that most of the crowd at Manchester’s Night and Day Café are there thanks to a certain Pitchfork review might be a bit of an overstatement, but it has certainly helped. Not that any of that will have mattered to Owens as he leads his extended band through a crash course in heartbreak and stoner rock.

Support comes from local hopefuls Egyptian Hip Hop and Londoners Swanton Bombs, both of whom put on a fantastic show to warm up an expectant crowd. The label ‘Doss Wave’ may be a little harsh, but EHH certainly make a sound that is nearly completely their own and it’s certainly only a matter of time before many more people pick up on them. The same can be said of Swanton Bombs, who manage to sound a lot grander than their billing as a two-piece suggests. A mish-mash of shouty-harmonies and excitable drumming, a lengthy European tour has certainly only helped them progress.

On record Girls have always sounded heartbreaking, but actually seeing the band on stage really brings it home. Awkward and nervous, dressed in oversized corduroy trousers, every bit the tortured soul you’d imagine Owens puts a brave face on it, just as the bright, sun-drenched sound the band creates masks the dark, horrifying sadness the lyrics hold. ‘Hellhole Ratrace’ may be classed as the 383rd best song of the decade, but live it’s twice as powerful and desperate. But it doesn’t steal the show - in fact, that title could go to any one of a selection of songs. Album opener ‘Lust For Life’ takes on a whole new meaning when performed, whereas any excuse for ‘Big Bad Mean Motherfucker’ is one that should gratefully be taken.

Whether or not Girls will repeat their current success with their second album - or, indeed, if they’ll even record a follow-up - is purely speculation at the moment. No matter what happens, Christopher Owens has somehow managed to forge one of the most important records of love and loss in coastal American ever and the chance to catch that live is a very special one indeed.

Photo: Miriam Baynes

Tags: Girls, Features

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