By Mary Stevens
A congregation of 400 filled a draughty St Bartholomew’s on a freezing Thursday, to witness a group of Mancunians renowned for songs of drink and disaster. An intriguing prospect for audience and band alike. Softly lit by candles, against the backdrop of a huge golden crucifix, singer John Bramwell apologized in advance for any listening challenges the enormous echo box of the building might present.
However, the sepulchral acoustics of a 135ft roof space proved a fine fit for majestic music that references heaven, skies, stones and seas (as well as alcohol fuelled emotional turmoil). A particular highlight was ‘On The Brink’, which saw Bramwell writhing with his demons before the altar, as chords bounced off the bricks.
The self-deprecating kitchen sink directness with which the band present themselves belies the depth of the music. An alcohol free audience in a church (albeit taunted by the band with cans of Fosters) were perhaps compelled to listen more closely to what are profoundly soulful songs. Bramwell declared the night possibly their most difficult gig ever. He needn’t have worried – the conquering of the echo chamber contributed to what was an earthily spiritual experience.