LIVE: The Horrors – The Albert Hall, Manchester

So often a change in direction for a band with an established fanbase is met with a polarised response. There are those who will be most likely to commend them, applauding the braveness of committing to an almost unrecognisable new sound, and then there are loyalists who are unable to deal with the transition, reacting negatively due to a reluctance to move on.

However, The Horrors are one group who seem to have managed to completely rebrand their music, with the vast majority agreeing that it has brought the best out of them.

Gone is the spiky punk sound that characterised their early work when most of the band were still teenagers. It has been replaced with something more layered, creatively stimulating and – at times – downright encapsulating.

The release of The Horrors’ fourth album Luminous earlier this year saw them continue the trip into shoegaze and psychedelia that was manifested in Skying – the record that stepped up their game and won over a host of new fans.

Their return to Manchester saw them play to a sold out crowd at the 2000-capacity Albert Hall.

Upon entering the venue there is an impressive audience who have got down early to see the support set from London-based rockers Telegram. The four-piece have only unveiled a couple of singles since their debut ‘Follow’, which was released by Heavenly Recordings last year. But despite the lack of a full-length album, there is a buzz of excitement surrounding the set.

Telegram rattle through a swashbuckling performance that – conjuring up memories of Manchester legends like Buzzcocks and Magazine – is theatrical and raw in equal measure. The band throw themselves around the stage, demonstrating the confidence and swagger of a unit who have been commanding venues of this size for decades. 2015 will surely be a very big year for them indeed.

From start to finish, the set that follows from The Horrors is not as high-octane, but provides a level of cinematography and some blissed-out soundscapes that take the audience to a completely different place.

Frontman Faris Badwan arrives on stage after the rest of his bandmates, leaving the crowd to shower him with a rapturous reception all of his own. Luminous is responsible for a large amount of the opening portion of the set and the audience look as if they wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are flashes of krautrock from the off with tracks like ‘Chasing Shadows’ and also evidence that the live show that has evolved from the process of recording Luminous has led the band to turn more closely towards electronica than they have ever done in the past.

‘In and Out of Sight’ is a wistful piece of pop that whisks the audience off their feet and catapults them into the clear night sky.

With wider mainstream success comes the opportunity to shell out a little more on the extras too. At times the light show creates a picture that would not look out of sight on a headline tour by Orbital or The Chemical Brothers.

Man-made fog engulfs the capacity crowd and for long periods the Horrors are only visible as pulsating silhouettes, flashing from dark to light with the beat of Tom Spurgeon’s bassdrum.

But for all the lasers and extravagant visuals, the music is ultimately strong enough to back it up. A raved-out rendition of ‘I See You’ raises the temperature to boiling point and single ‘Still life’ is met with a mass singalong.

Having formed and first presented fans with a sound that many believed was too much of its time nearly a decade ago, it is truly refreshing to see how The Horrors have blossomed into something much more mature, immersive and well-rounded.

Patrick Davies

 

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