Music is all about timing. When things work out, it’s as though the stars themselves have aligned and nothing could stand in the way. When they don’t, there’s not much you can do about it.
Perhaps it’s the rather stark and sombre mood that 2016 began with- all terrorism, the deaths of treasured public figures, NHS walkouts and ignorant politicians. Maybe not. Whatever the truth, when Money’s Suicide Songs hit earlier this year it couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. Or at least that’s what reactions suggested.
Disappointingly for the outfit in question then, it was impossible for them to hit the road in the immediate aftermath, when the record was still very much at the fore of everyone’s mind. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to have made much difference in terms of momentum, following a stellar opening slot from ever-impressive femme fatales Stealing Sheep the Manchester troupe take to The Ritz’s stage with tangible confidence for their biggest ever date on home turf.
Actually, that’s perhaps a little misleading. For a few minutes it’s just frontman Jamie Lee in full view, regaling one of what becomes several anecdotes relating to what you might call melancholic debauchery, or bitter boozing. It sets a tone for what’s to come- tracks that have been inspired or facilitated by an apparent penchant for drink and discussions about what’s wrong with the world on both a macro and micro level. It also clarifies an aspect of the band which is at once a potential achilles heel or ace in the whole; your enjoyment of their live show very much hinges on feelings towards this central character, the man with the lyrics, mic, and inescapable presence.
One thing is for sure- it’s impossible not to be impressed by his delivery, and that of the group overall. Starting as they mean to go on set list-wise, the first sung yarn looks at the delightful prospect of a drug addict who is trapped in a cycle of losing love each Valentine’s Day. Poignant enough to have impact, so tender as to risk being lost in the noise of a Friday night gig crowd, it’s a brave opening that works in their favour. All eyes to the front and such like.
Before the evening is out Lee has dropped down onto the floor and into the crowd as Letter To Yesterday’s combination of powerful atmosphere and emptiness rings out across the venue, although it’s perhaps in the more soaring moments that we really get our money’s worth (no pun intended). Suicide Song, whilst a world away from anything commanding or ‘loud’, showcases both vocals and instruments fully letting go, with You Look Like A Sad Painting On Both Sides of The Sky another case in point- as the musicianship of no less than six players- from violin and cello to drums- washes over us like some great ocean of harmony and sadness. The effect is clear on captivated faces from front to back, suggesting that this show, postponed from earlier in the year, has been very much worth the wait.