A thunderous battle between old and new was waged Wednesday at the Uptown Theater. A capacity audience of approximately 1,800 witnessed veteran band Brand New fight upstart act Manchester Orchestra to a draw.
They had no trouble replicating that electrifying effort in the significantly larger Uptown Theater. Manchester Orchestra takes the "bigger is better" axiom to heart. Their gargantuan attack is the indie rock equivalent of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound.
So powerful were the songs that preceded it, the performance of the hit "I've Got Friends" seemed anti-climatic during their abbreviated forty-minute set. Characterized by violent outbursts and melodic interludes, "The River" and "Everything To Nothing" were particularly cathartic.
Manchester Orchestra is far more substantial than a band that's just beginning to find its footing. Instead, it's a fully realized act that's already flirting with greatness. With his knit cap and tormented howl, bandleader Andy Hull evoked the tortured brilliance of Elliott Smith.
Although the audience was deeply appreciative of Manchester Orchestra's undeniable power, most were longtime loyalists of Brand New.
Casual observers outside the insular post-punk scene would be forgiven for failing to take notice of Brand New's curious evolution. Their 2001 debut album was filled with likable if somewhat generic pop-punk anthems. They've since attempted to make the exceedingly difficult transition to an ambitious band of substance.
Based on the audience's enthusiastic reception, Brand New's transformation is succeeding. From the opening "You Won't Know" to the farewell of "Play Crack the Sky," many in the audience sang along to every song in the band's 75-minute set.
Female fans served as a punk rock choir during "Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't." It's likely that it and the rapturously received "Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades" served as high school staples for much of the predominantly 20-something audience.
Yet material from the new release Daisy was also went over very well. "At the Bottom," a twang-tinged tale of desperation, and the emotional "You Stole" were standouts. While their new sound isn't about to be mistaken for the stately art-rock of Wilco, it's certain to please fans of the Pixies and Cursive.
Brand New's impressive outing was cut short due to the health of vocalist Jesse Lacey.
"It's all I can do to stand up here right now," he said.
Conversely, the set of opening act Sybris was characterized by good cheer. Although their sound evokes gloomy college rock staples of the late '80s like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth, the Chicago quartet couldn't stop smiling. And why not? They were merely innocent bystanders in the enormously rewarding heavyweight bout between Brand New and Manchester Orchestra.
| Bill Brownlee/Special to The Star