LIVE: The Avalanches – The Albert Hall, Manchester
It’s nearly been two decades since The Avalanches really made their mark on the world, releasing one of the decade’s most iconic instrumental hip-hop records in the shape of Since I Left You.
The LP married the kind of jazz-infused cutting and scratching that had characterised many classics in the years that preceded them from the likes of DJ Shadow, De la Soul and A Tribe Called Quest – swapping lyrical flow for cartoonish samples and enthralling brass-fuelled drops.
The 16 years that followed represented one hell of a hiatus, with a follow-up finally coming last year with the release of Wildflower – a record that despite so long out of the game and various lineup changes, sounded like it would tread a relatively similar path. The lead single ‘Frankie Sinatra’ was was a playful reimagining of Bossanova Jazz that got the anticipation flowing.
In the end, the record was another lighthearted trip through psychedelia that attempted to embrace the ‘now’ with guest spots from the likes of Father John Misty and Danny Brown. The reviews were almost universally positive.
A year later, however, and the record now makes it to our shores for a couple of live performances. The Avalanches stop off for a sold out show at Manchester’s Albert Hall after a sweaty week for the city – and based on the excitable crowd (spanning a huge range of ages) the temperature does not look set to drop any time soon.
After ‘Reckless’ signals a full throttle intro, the band demonstrate they brim confidence when it comes to the new record, bringing out ‘Because I’m Me’ and the aforementioned ‘Frankie Sinatra’. The outfit’s fluid nature also seems to be nice and settled for this tour, with their two core members pulling the production strings behind, while Q-Tip-esque and Lauryn Hill-style vocals repackage many of the high profile guest spots from Wildflower.
An undoubted crowd pleaser comes in the shape of a cover of The Clash’s ‘Guns of Brixton’, before ‘Flight Tonight’ instantly takes us back those 16 years to Since I Left You.
It’s impressive to see a record that has become synonymous with such a long hiatus not just used as a makeweight to put on another tour, after-all a simple anniversary run of their debut must surely have been a financial temptation on more than one occasion.
The problem with having a couple of classic singles that so readily stick out, however, is that the defining moments of the set are inevitably formulaic. ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ is unleashed relatively early to a frenzied reception, with ‘If I Was a Folkstar’ from the new record serving as a brave end to the main set.
They return for ‘The Noisy Eater’ and a euphoric singalong of ‘Since I Left You’, an encore that marks the end of an evening that has been an impressive combination of nostalgia and fresh cuts. It surely can’t take as long for album number three, can it?