Review: Other Lives – The Deaf Institute, Manchester

On a late Sunday evening, when we should really be wrapped up warm with a cocoa and some nonsense talent programme, particularly with a hangover as brutal as mine…we instead opted to head down to the Deaf Institute, Manchester to watch one of the stand-out band’s of 2011.

Other Lives hail from the state of Oklahoma, but seemed happy to be here on this chilly Autumnal night, in a place they claim to be one of their very favourites on the road. Ignoring the hustle and bustle of blokes dressed as vampires and girls in horny devil outfits, for Halloween of course, we popped into an overheated room in one of the finest establishments in the city.

Support came from indie-pop threesome Air Castles, and the incredibly 80’s influenced Young Galaxy…I’ve never seen so much white denim since Razorlight toured in 2004! Unfortunately we only caught the last track from Air Castles, but were present for all of Young Galaxy. Their songs were decent enough, improving as the set went on, particularly due to the highly talented drummer squashed in at the back. But they were nothing close to the music of Other Lives, and their synthy, electro beats may have fitted in elsewhere…Nonetheless, they did dedicate a tune to Tony Wilson…so they deserved some praise at least for that

It wasn’t until almost half ten when Other Lives finally got their set under way. Prior to this, they had to arrange the stage slowly and carefully due to the mass of equipment they carried with them. Nonetheless, with everything finally set up, Jesse, Jenny, Josh, Colby and Jonathon took to the stage, acknowledging us with perfect politeness!
 Playing tracks chiefly from their new album Tamer Animals, performances of songs such as Dark Horse and Old Statues were just mind-blowing. Keeping close to the brilliantly scored, movie-soundtrack-esque music of the record, they threw their all into the show. Tamer Animals the track, for example, began with haunting keys and rumbling drumrolls, before lead singer Jesse pressed the modern-day, thought-provoking message, ‘But we’re all just an end to a simple thing, and it’s all you see, and it’s all you see…We’re just tamer animals.’

Even the event organisers Now Wave confessed that they’d never seen such a plethora of instruments. From keyboards to castanets, trumpets to xylophones, cellos to cabasas, and violins to antlers with little bells on…they had it all! But was this ton of instruments here because of the music, or to cover up the fact that some of their songs are just not that exciting? Well, on the whole, it was clearly for the music…used on tracks such as For 12, they were wonderfully necessary and made the performance beautifully captivating. However, on others I must admit, there were times when they seemed a little unnecessary, or there just to jazz up a track or two. Don’t get me wrong, on the album they sound dynamite, but on the road, the odd blow on the bassoon from the drummer, or pull on a squeeze box from the bassist, seemed to get a bit lost under the sound. Nonetheless, it cannot be ignored that Other Lives are an extraordinarily talented band. Never before have I seen five people play so many different instruments, so confidently.

The band left the stage after forty minutes or so, leaving Jesse alone with his keyboard. A man with complete charm and civility, as well as great deal of appreciation for the crowd’s reactions, he played a rendition of first-album number Black Tables. Despite a very poor joke comparing it to a Philip Glass cover, his solo performance was extremely elegant and striking.

Upon the rest of the band’s return, Other Lives ended the later than expected show with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Partisan. Personally, i’m not too keen on a cover ending a gig; however this was an exception. A beautiful track, justly performed by the providers of one of my favourite albums of the year, captivating a very admiring crowd, including myself…can’t complain, really!