By David Keyworth
The Cinematic Orchestra are one of those groups who you suspect only you and a few others know about, but nearly selling out Academy, they proved that it is possible to retain musical integrity whilst still generating box office appeal.
This Manchester gig is part of a tour promoting the band’s new album, To Believe. They will soon be heading to Japan, Poland, Germany and Switzerland before returning to the UK for their Bristol concert on the 30th of June.
To Believe features a broad cast of singers who bring their own distinctive style to each individual track.
Heidi Vogel was the main singer for this show. She has a soaring vocal style – perfect for the Cinematic Orchestra’s shifting rhythms and inflections. This was clearly evident on her renditions of ‘Familiar Ground’ (from Ma Fleur, 2007), ‘All that you Give’ (from Every Day, 2002) and ‘A Promise’ (from To Believe). She even lead the only audience singalong of the evening – a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ for bass player Sam Vicary.
Grey Reverend played guitar throughout the show and sang ‘Zero One/ This Fantasy’ (as he does on the new album). He seems to struggle at first to find his vocal level, but this was soon rectified.
Support act, California-based musician Salami Rose Joe Louis, also joined the other singers for a couple of the Cinematic numbers. In her yellow cardigan, she looked a bit like a weekend librarian, but she has a vocal assurance and phrasing reminiscnent of American jazz singer and songwriter, Madeleine Peyroux
When it came to the instrumental numbers, it was Tom Chant’s wizard-like saxophone playing which most frequently demanded the spotlight. The interplay between the saxophone and the percussive drive of Luke Flower’s drumming was one of the night’s most compelling aspects. Flowers is a regular at Manchester jazz club Matt & Phreds, and he is both flamboyant and focused and apparently very much at home on stage.
The Cinematic Orchestra’s music is very hard to categorise, and all the better for it. Is it acid jazz or jazz on acid or dance music on a detour? It doesn’t really matter – there is enough energy and variety to keep an audience enthralled until the (metaphorical) credits roll. The Cinematic Orchestra synthesise different influences without becoming trapped in any of them.
Given the preponderance of Cinematic Orchestra tracks on film and TV soundtracks (especially ‘To Build a Home’ from Ma Fleur), there seems to be ample scope for a filmmaker to add a visual dimension to their shows, as Adam Curtis did for Massive Attack during their recent Mezzanine anniversary tour. That said, the charged musical fluency was the star of this show, and if there’s any justice in the world, there will be lots of Cinematic Orchestra sequels, both in Manchester and throughout the world.