Last Friday night saw Manchester’s ‘Gorilla’ being stormed by Winston Yellen and his posse of Nashville-ites; also known as Night Beds. The band were greeted by a venue filled with seats and a rather slim crowd of notably avid gig-goers waiting, single eyebrow raised, to be impressed. Though Yellen admitted on stage that he was finding the seating situation unnerving and was suffering from horrendous stage fright, the band did well to create an atmospheric tone in what really could have been an overly uninspiring scene.
The show got off to a fairly awkward start – there were sound problems and bass issues and it was clear to see that frustration was in abundance live on stage – yet somehow, the unlikely lads got it together and pulled off an almighty U-turn. Doused in self awareness, Yellen announced to his audience three songs into the set, “If this one doesn’t get you on your feet, I don’t know what will… this is our only banger”. Their ‘only banger’ being Ramona – a catchy, country-pop track that certainly inspired Night Beds’ tough audience to at least tap their feet, if not stand on them.
Though Yellen might be the main attraction of Night Beds, the rest of the band did well to compliment the exquisite voice of their lead singer. The saxophones, percussion, and electronic synth sounds worked together tremendously to create a bluesy and spacey sound, which complemented Winston Yellen’s incredibly striking and at times haunting voice, magnificently.
A personal highlight of the gig was when the band wandered out into the crowd, rousing their fans from their seats and into a circle for a moment of wholesome majesty. As the crowd became intertwined, and the band began their a cappella rendition of Gillian Welch’s The Way The Whole Thing Ends, the mood shifted and the talent of the band became impossible to ignore. Every member of the all-male band was given the chance to show off their own vocal talent, harmonising Welch’s lyrics “Singing in the back door crying, now you wanna be my friend, that’s the way the corn bread crumbles, that’s the way the whole thing ends”. Their country roots shone through and the whole act became impossibly charming. There was something so beautiful about Manchester’s most stony faced music lovers being made to sing a Nashville anthem, and it was clear that the band thought so too.
Night Beds’ performance of their track, Even If We Try, taken from their debut album Country Sleep, was another highlight of the set. The dramatic track was performed to perfection and the previously unshaken audience was, by this point, notably immersed in the band’s performance.
The end of the gig was solid and successful. In the same breath that Yellen talked to his audience about feeling sentimental and unsure about the future of the band, he sang Was I For You – a deeply sad and reflective song. As he pondered “All you doubters and all you cowards, you and your heartache is not enough to know who you are. And all you dreamers and unbelievers, you and your heartache, it’s not enough to know who you are”, Yellen sounded as though he was overcome with despair. Although there were times in the night when one would have believed he was feeling quite the contrary (ie. when I bumped into them partying in Manchester to a Destiny’s Child soundtrack), his performance oozed sincerity and as a result, was incredibly impressive.
It is certainly fair to say that the gig got off to an awkward start and that they were met by a real tough crowd, but they deserve to be cut some real slack. They pulled together and delivered a spectacular performance. I for one hope that Winston Yellen’s fears about not returning to Manchester are proved wrong, and that the city will be treated to Night Beds’ company once more.