Membranes front man John Robb chose Saturday evening to showcase the bands album Dark Matter/Dark Energy with the help of Manchester BIMM Choir and no less than six supporting bands.
The Ritz was filling up nicely when first act up Manchester’s The Empty Page kicked the evening off at 5pm with a thundering grungy sound not unlike the Smashing Pumpkins. With an album already under their belt the powerful trio soon got the attention of the early evening crowd and by the end of their set the front of the stage was pretty full.
Next up one of the hottest bands of the moment The Blinders. Originating in Doncaster but based firmly in Manchester the powerful trio were experiencing a large stage for possibly the first time but showed no sign of nerves as they blasted through there energetic set. Last years single Swine , Murder At The Ballet and the superb Ramona Flowers all sounded amazing in the larger venue and despite a broken guitar string Charlie still managed to thrash around on the floor whilst still playing. The crowd loved it but the band didn’t hang around, rushing off for an evening gig in Liverpool.
Often referred to as one of Manchester’s finest lost bands, Dub Sex are next to perform, the band was originally formed in the eighties before splitting in 1990. After 25 years apart the band reformed in 2014 and have gone from strength to strength with sell outs shows and festival appearances. Tonight their short set features all the Dub Sex classics, Swerve, The Underneath, Push and of course Tripwire. They might be older but the music sounded just as good as it did back in the days of Madchester.
Post punk/ indie band the Nightingales are next, another reformed band once great favourites of the late John Peel. Tonight’s set is a real powerhouse of great punk music with an addictive inventiveness that the original punks never had. The now near capacity crowd lap it up and the band get the best reaction of the day so far.
Preston’s Evil Blizzard filled the early evening slot, the four bass players and singing drummer in an array of weird, horrific rubber masks taunting a crowd who loved every minute of it. Their dark, thundering part heavy metal, part prog rock is loved by the crowd some of whom are clearly big fans, wearing horror masks of their own. Playing classic tracks from their album Everybody Come To Church, Sacrifice, Stupid People and Are You Evil all sound great and set things up for the evenings main events.
Although only just after 8pm the Ritz was packed as the legendary Brix Smith Start strolled onto the stage. Her time in The Fall married to Mark E. Smith makes her an honour y Manc and she received a rapturous reception from a partisan crowd. It was a fast paced upbeat set peppered with Fall songs,Feeling Numb, L.A, US 80’s-90’s and the wonderful Totally Wired all helped along by ex Fall members Steve and Paul Hanley. Brix was the perfect rock goddess, strutting around the stage kicking and punching the air pouting for the photographers although she only played guitar on a couple of numbers. All to soon the set was over.
Finally the reason for tonight show, The Membranes showcasing their album, the critically acclaimed Dark Matter/ Dark Energy. With the 20 piece BIMM choir tucked away in one corner of the stage and a film about the universe playing behind them the band launched into The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Protons Of Pure Light with an explosion of energy. John Robb never one to stand around on stage strutted and posed with his guitar whilst the rest of the band played solidly behind him. Having the backing of a choir gave the band a much fuller sound and added to the sense of occasion the gig offered. With the choir and background film the performance the performance was a real multi sensory experience with Supernova, Black Is The Colour, In The Graveyard and of course Dark Energy never sounding better.
All in all it was an excellent evening and all credit to John Robb for putting it all together.