According to the band’s Instagram account, Night Moves don’t travel beyond their own country’s borders much. We are therefore honoured to welcome the Minnesotans back to Manchester after their Soup Kitchen show a couple of years ago. This evening finds them in the tight confines of the Night & Day Cafe, which is pleasingly full and animated by the time the band take to the stage.
They’re here to promote their third album Can You Really Find Me and it’s fair to say that this is their most consistent, with a bevy of tracks reinforcing their hazy 70s and 80s rock formulae with some slick production values courtesy of Spoon drummer, Jim Eno. On the whole this is what is presented this evening; it’s a polished, very professional affair and evocative of all manner of artists from an era that we’ve been told we should ignore or it would be foolish to ape. In the hands of Night Moves though it’s strangely compelling, only occasionally veering of into the more self-indulgent moments that don’t quite add up to the sum of their parts. The band may have epic pretensions, but their songs work best when restrained by shorter running times and more recognisable structures.
Lead singer John Pelant certainly has that mysterious magnetism required to drive the evening, despite the very few moments when he acknowledges the crowd. After what seems like an age to set up and plug in, the band open with ‘Angelina’. Sadly, this is perhaps one of the new record’s weakest moments. This inauspicious start aside, what follows is impressive stuff. The shimmering beauty of ‘Denise, Don’t Want to See you Cry’ is swiftly followed by the brilliant ‘Recollections’. There’s a dynamic thrust to these songs and the latter allows Pelant to demonstrate his malleable vocals which shift to the track’s falsetto requirements with imperceptible ease. The swooning synths on the album version are absent tonight but there is still enough vivacity on display to win over any fans yet to listen to Can You Really Find Me.
The band work best when the tempo is more dynamic and ‘Alabama’ is probably one of those more decadent moments that doesn’t quite work. As if to prove the point, ‘Strands Align’ arrives and all is forgiven. The vibe this song and others generate contributes to the sense that Night Moves could have soundtracked Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie ‘Boogie Nights’; ‘Strands Align’ certainly seems to embody all the best things about songs like Rick Springfield’s ‘Jessie’s Girl’, but without the decadent cheese that goes along with it. Perhaps this is where Night Moves ultimately succeed; they’ve embraced a particular musical era and shaped it in their own vision. Songs like ‘Mexico’ and the stunning ‘Carl Sagan’ possess the neon shimmer of the bands you may associate with the era, but Pelant et al infuse their own subtle 21st century flourishes into the mix and it is during these moments when the evening is an absolute success.
Words & Images by Iain Fox