Culture, Music, News

Palaye Royale & Starbenders @ Manchester Academy review – bizarre and vivid in the finest way

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Featured image and gallery: Rianna Ram


You know you have a dedicated fanbase when the queue to get into the venue rivals the distance to Platform 14 at Manchester Piccadilly train station. Surrounded by a sea of black lipstick and fishnets in the venue, lit up by Hollywood-style lights spelling out ‘Palaye Royale’ – it could only be for everyone’s favourite fashion-art rockers, who had travelled all the way to Manchester.

Going on tour to celebrate their Fever Dream album, it was a fitting name for the experience orchestrated by Palaye Royale brothers Remington Leith, Sebastian Danzig, and Emerson Barrett. Fever dreams are often bizarre and vivid, and that’s precisely how this evening could be summed up, but in the finest way.

The set clouded in darkness only heightened the intensity while ‘The Day Is My Enemy’ blared on the speakers before support act Starbenders could take to the stage. Yonaka had unfortunately had to pull out from the show due to illness, however, determined to give the crowd the show that they had paid for – it must’ve only spurred them on more. Travelling from Atlanta, they immediately drew the crowd in from the offset with their alt-glam-rock sound. Frontwoman Kimi Shelter received comparisons from the audience to Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks, as her vocal prowess was as crisp as what had been captured in the studio. Headbanging and raising their guitars to the sky, they began as they meant to go on, signalling their return with ‘Death By Amplifier’.

Throughout their set, every facet of their sound was perfectly executed. A special mention has to go to their drummer, Emily Moon, who never missed a beat. Shelter shouting for the crowd to “wake up”, it was clear who was running the show. The repetition of “I’m coming clean”, in ‘Holy Mother’, was particularly powerful in its directness. Dedicating ‘BITCHES BE WITCHES’ to any witches in the building and banging the drums with enough force to conjure spirits, was clearly a fan-favourite.

Shelter’s flawless changes in vocals were highlighted in ‘Seven White Horses’, which also had a shimmering guitar melody. You could even spot a member of their crew in the wing dancing along to their music, matching the crowd’s energy. No amount of warning could prepare us for the intensity of their set, highlighted by their bassist, Aaron Lecesne’s frantic strumming.

Their crowd engagement was also a clear focus, from pointing to sections of the crowd to incite some cheering, to ordering them to hug a friend – this is the community spirit that had been lost for so long and was gladly welcomed back.

Dedicating ‘Something Ain’t Right’ to those who still believe in rock and roll, the image of Shelter punching the air with the crowd imitating her was a clear symbol of solidarity. Finishing with ‘If You Need It’, was a powerfully emotive glam-rock track. Shelter is clearly in a league of her own and it was refreshing to see the band collectively having fun on stage. They clearly have the ability to be vying for the headline title but chose to reach for the stars while staying in their lane – whenever they’re next touring a city near you, make sure to buy a ticket as they’re already going supernova.

No band does a performance like Palaye Royale and it is a thought shared by their fans, setting the bar for their set incredibly high.The voiceover booming around the room informed us that the ceremony was about to begin and that the line between fantasy and reality was to be blurred. They were right in prefacing it as a fever dream where literally anything could happen, as we were to find out.

Opening with ‘Nightmares’, frontman Remington Leith was immediately running around the stage and the crowd was clapping from the offset, while golden fireworks blasted upwards. While it was clear that no expense had been spared when it came to pyrotechnics, they certainly weren’t a band that relied on them but used them to further the theatrics.

Connecting with the crowd is clearly paramount for Palaye Royale. For ‘No Love In LA’, guitarist Sebastian Danzig, took to the barrier, as did Leith for ‘You’ll Be Fine’. Always checking in with the crowd and asking how everyone is doing, mid-way through the show the band spoke with the fans at the front to make sure they weren’t being squashed. They also gave a cheer to security for passing out water to fans.

One of the most striking aspects of a live show is how much emotion you can witness behind an artist’s track first-hand. Probably the most heart-wrenching track was early on in the set, ‘Broken’, which began more stripped back to start, allowing the fans to breathe. Showing the band’s more vulnerable side, the crowd finished Leith’s words in the chorus, repeating ‘Broken, broken, broken’. Leith kneeling on stage while singing to ‘Paranoid’, clearly showed his vulnerability. Within a similar vein and powerful in its simplicity, ’Oblivion’ saw fans waving their phone lights, while Leith was under a single spotlight.

Reminiscing on their last show in Manchester which was apparently terrible and had a different atmosphere, this was already at the other end of the spectrum. Throwing all of their emotions out on stage, Danzig was back on the barrier while Leith said: “I want you to lose yourself.” Increasing the chaos and ordering a circle pit, the number of emotions were bubbling over with the crowd singing their words out.

After giving it all to the performance, Leith just fell straight back on stage. Keeping the momentum up, drummer Emerson Barrett was upping the ante for ‘King of the Damned’, while Leith and Danzig, launched into the crowd on an inflatable boat and sprayed water guns at the crowd.

Illness may have been in the air as Leith had been ill but admitted that the last thing he’d want to do is cancel the show. If he hadn’t shared this with the crowd, no one would’ve suspected that he wasn’t 100%, as he was clearly determined to give his all.

Quickly within their set, the amount of crowd surfers had doubled and was a solid indicator of how well their fans were feeding off the band’s energy. All of the crowd waving to the words “not today” in ‘Off With the Head’, almost looked like an act of defiance. Completed with the smoke machines, confetti, and cheers from the crowd – it was a celebration of the present and hope for the future.

Leaving two of their most popular tracks, ‘Lonely’ and ‘Fever Dream’ for the encore, they continued with their high-energy stage performance. Announcing that they’ll try and meet as many fans after the show until they’re kicked out, they powered through to their finale of the night – ‘Fever Dream’. The drumming beat almost sounded like a homage to My Chemical Romance’s ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’. Danzig wearing the trans flag was a nod to how the band champions inclusivity and how everyone is welcome at their show – a true safe space for all. Finishing off the set with more fireworks and confetti, it’s clear that their performance is second to none.

As a lasting gesture, the band handed out flowers to their fans and chucked some into the crowd. Almost like a reverse to the usual tradition of fans tossing flowers onto the stage to show their appreciation. They are a band dedicated to the wonder of a spectacle, the love of their fans and the thrill of the show. Their show isn’t for the faint-hearted but acts as a reminder of how lucky we are that our heart is still beating.

About the author / 

Camilla Whitfield

Fourth Year BA English with Overseas Study | Music Editor | Manchester & Leipzig | Music & Gig Enthusiast

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