It’s been five years since The Maccabees parted ways, a decision that set Orlando Weeks sail on his voyage as a solo artist. Due to the pandemic, it has been a stop-start period for the singer, but, in Manchester, he looked at complete ease in his new setting.
Weeks’ debut album, The Gritterman, was a heartwarming delight and coincided with a children’s book of the same name, penned by the singer himself. However, it’s a project which exists solely in its own universe.
In truth, the former Maccabees singer’s solo career only truly got underway in 2020 when he released the stunning album A Quickening. However, due to obvious circumstances, Weeks was unable to tour the project and instead got underway on the follow-up.
While he did manage to squeeze in a series of intimate shows last autumn, his solo material remains rather untested on the road. Still, you wouldn’t have guessed that from his joyous concert at Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music this weekend.
For tickets to see Orlando Weeks on his remaining tour dates including The Barbican in London on March 20th, visit here.
Five things we learned from Orlando Weeks’ gig in Manchester:
The choice of venue
Royal Northern College of Music is a picturesque, intimate theatre that lent itself beautifully to Orlando Weeks’ voice on Saturday evening and provided a canvas that he used grippingly.
Admittedly, the energy was drastically different to a gig in a sweatbox, but it made for an enjoyable change as Orlando rose to the task in less familiar surroundings.
Weeks surprisingly apologised for the room’s vast ceiling towards the end of the set and promised to return to somewhere “long and narrow with a low ceiling” when he next comes to Manchester. However, there was something novel about the theatre which made the show have a majestic feel that particularly suited the brooding sounds from A Quickening.
A cinematic first half
For the first half of the performance, Weeks pulled exclusively from his dark, 2020 offering, A Quickening, and this decision to split the evening into two halves was a necessary move considering the stark differences between his records.
The earliest of the two albums sees Weeks tap into the intenser side of his musical persona and the daunting aspects of parenthood which he turned into a spiralling, cinematic triumph. ‘Safe In Sound’ was a standout moment from this section, and you could hear a pin drop with the well-behaved crowd completely mesmerised by the song’s erratic magic.
An action-filled second half
The hypnotising tracks from A Quickening are tailormade for the opulent venue. On the other hand, it was a more challenging environment to devour Weeks’ second album, Hop Up, an uplifting, joyous celebration of life that makes you want to get up and dance which was prohibited in the RNCM.
While it wasn’t possible to get on your feet, smiles were beaming off the faces of everyone in the room during the entire section, and a feelgood spirit filled the air throughout. Besides, even if the audience couldn’t get out of their seats to put their dancing shoes to use, Weeks more than made up for that by showing off his moves throughout.
Looking comfortable in his new surroundings
When you’ve been in a band with the same people for 15 years, it can understandably be a daunting task when you have to step out on your own feet and no longer alongside your trusted regiment with you for backup, but Weeks looked entirely at ease in his new surroundings.
As he’s always been a reserved frontman who subverts rock ‘n’ roll cliches, it’s unsurprising that he took to playing an intimate theatre in front of just a few hundred people like a duck to water. Weeks seems to be relishing returning to these establishments where you can see the whites in the eyes of everyone in attendance.
While Weeks might not be known for his on-stage comedic skills, he emitted a warmness whenever he interacted with the crowd that only further helped make the building feel like a corridor of solace in an ever-maddening world.
Everyone leaving with ‘Big Skies, Silly Faces’
After the intense yet, thrilling first section of the show, the looser sounds of Hop Up made for a festive atmosphere which Weeks rounded off in elegant style with the jubilant, ‘Big Skies, Silly Faces’.
The rich harmonies from Weeks’ band had been a delight throughout the whole concert, but the closer was their piece de resistance. The touching track epitomised the exuberance palpable in the RNCM, and everybody in attendance left the building in sky-high spirits.
Furthermore, the show was an evening where Orlando finally got to reap the rewards of his strenuous work into establishing himself as an artist moulded exclusively in his image over the last few years, and ‘Big Skies, Silly Faces’ was the perfect victory lap.