ON Friday night, Mystery Jets played a sell-out show at Gorilla in Manchester. Quays News entertainment reporter Eleanor Doward was lucky enough to be there for us…
After taking a lengthy break since the release of ‘Radlands’ in 2012 to work on their latest album, ‘Curve of the Earth’, Mystery Jets are back and more weird and wonderful than ever. They have described the album, their fifth so far, as the most “personal and musically definitive” in a recent interview with NME.
Mystery Jets brought two supporting artists, Johnny Lloyd and Declan McKenna, with the latter far surpassing the former. Johnny Lloyd, formerly of Tribes, has now gone solo and had some good, atmospheric tracks reminiscient of the Police’s early music. ‘Pilgrims‘ in particular was a great song, but Lloyd’s vocals weren’t quite strong enough and he had very little stage presence.
Declan McKenna, a 17-year-old from Hertfordshire, along with his backing band, looked too young to have been allowed in the venue. I, like many in attendance, wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised. Declan McKenna won Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent in 2015 and it was clear why. Unlike Lloyd, McKenna had a unique, powerful voice and his fast-paced tracks, with their infectious riffs, had the crowd clapping along by the third track, ‘Paracetamol’. Closing track, ‘Brazil’, was the best number in his short support set, leaving a dancing crowd ready for Mystery Jets.
Mystery Jets have been playing together for over two decades and have built a solid following. The key question was how their new, more personal material was going to work alongside the older, light-hearted classics, such as ‘Two Doors Down’.
The band came out grinning, wild-haired and clad in bomber jackets and leather, launching into their set with ‘Telomere’ from the new album. Though the album was only released in January, most of the crowd seemed to know every word and were chanting along to the catchy chorus in no time. The vocals to this spacey number were perfect and, positioned in front of the equally spacey backdrop (the cover art of Curve of the Earth), they looked the part.
Bright yellow, green and white strobe lights accompanied ‘Serotonin’, which was next up, followed by ‘Flash a Hungry Smile’, both upbeat hits from the 2010 album ‘Serotonin’. The group were comfortable and relaxed onstage – particularly Blaine Harrison, who hit every high note without struggle. Guitarist William Rees claimed he knew Manchester was already going to be their favourite show of the tour, greeting old fans with a “lovely to be seeing you all again!” Every song seemed to be played more enthusiastically than the last, and the crowd wondered just how the group would keep the high energy up.
A slightly awkward segue into ‘Midnight’s Mirror’ from the new album followed, with Harrison claiming “this is for anyone who has ever had a big night that they thought they might not make it out of.” The shift in tone from the earlier songs was a bit uncomfortable, particularly with the sombre blue lighting that came with it. Though this was a clearly meaningful song, it wasn’t one of my evening’s best.
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Mostly, though, the old classics and new, more atmospheric tracks, worked well alongside each other.
You could see that the London-based band’s music has matured but has retained just enough of their original spark.
The newer songs were more emotive, meaningful and really drew you in; before playing ‘Blood Red Balloon’, a melodic, atmospheric track, Harrison told the audience he wanted them to “forget where you are, and come away with us,” and it wasn’t hard to do so.
Overall, though, the older anthems went down better with the crowd. ‘Half in Love with Elizabeth’, ‘Young Love’ – which did not miss Laura Marling; Harrison’s cover of the second verse was perfect – ‘Alice Springs’ and their encore song, ‘Two Doors Down’, had the whole crowd dancing, clapping and chanting along.
The band played a long encore, ‘Some Purer’ followed by ‘Two Doors Down’, eventually ending with ‘Flakes’. Though ‘Flakes’ is an undoubtedly great song, it would have been better for the set to end on a high point with ‘Two Doors Down’, which would have been a more fitting ending to such an energetic show. That said, Mystery Jets put on a great performance.
Their set was consistently faultless, the guitar solos frequent and powerful and they were comfortable onstage, chatting to the audience like old friends and promising to be back in Manchester soon.
By Eleanor Doward
Ten star rating!8