review via Birthday Cake For Breakfast
With their terrific fourth album ‘Heirs’ released next week, Northern Irish four-piece And So I Watch You From Afar are out on the road around the UK and Europe this spring. This past week they came to Manchester, their second stop having played a sold out show in Glasgow the night before.
This would turn out to be my third time seeing And So I Watch You From Afar, having seen them at ArcTanGent the past two years. I was keen to catch them in an actual venue this time around, as opposed to pissed up in a field at a festival. It’s odd though, as even though one would assume the intimacy and atmosphere might get lost in the open environment of a festival, it was the complete opposite. Their set at last year’s ArcTanGent was one of the highlights of the whole weekend, with the crowd pretty much coming together as one, united and in awe of this fantastic band. So would that feeling translate to the confines of hip Manchester joint Gorilla? I was soon to find out.
With much fanfare, ASIWYFA entered the swelling room, greeted by a thoroughly enthusiastic crowd. The first three tunes from their new albumHeirs would also be the first three of the evening. The brilliant ‘Run Home’ was slightly marred by an issue with the sound (in that for parts of it, you weren’t able to hear Rory’s guitar) but it was terrific fun to hear it live, having personally played it to death the past couple of months. ‘These Secret Kings I Know’ has fast become one of my favourite tracks from the new album, and it was tremendous here. That guitar sound and the vocal combination are just gorgeous. Without much room to breathe, second single ‘Wasps’ was up next, and it’s a total blast, working a treat in building up the atmosphere in the room. From album number four to album number two, ASIWYFA shifted gears from ‘Heirs’ to ‘Gangs’ and blasted into the immense ‘BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION’ which really lit a fire under the arses of everyone in the room. The whole congregation became one sea of people, all swaying with the sweet, sweet sounds of this dancey staple, and this was pretty much how the crowd remained for the rest of the show. The awesome ‘7 Billion People All Alive At Once’ was a huge highlight for me, having been one of the tracks that really got me onto the ASIWYFA bandwagon, and it really had the crowd swept up and singing along, as did the unbelievable ‘Like A Mouse’.
There was a real intense moment during one track where the band got the crowd to drop to complete silence. That earlier analogy of the congregation becoming one sea of people was most evident here, with such a calm falling over the crowd. It was as if time stood still as everyone basked in the quiet, every hair on one’s neck standing to attention.
I can’t begin to imagine how techy this stuff is to play, and at certain points it actually looked like Rory’s heart was going to explode at any minute with the amount of effort he was putting into it! There was a funny moment when they were starting one track where guitarist Niall put up his hand to halt it before it could begin, having looked slightly overwhelmed with the giant pedal operation that lay before him, which the band just laughed off. It really looked like they were having a blast up on stage, and there was a particularly sweet moment when the room was encouraged to sing Happy Birthday to bassist Johnny. I’ve heard of how the lads that make up ASIWYFA are great people, and it seems very much the case. They seem like the loveliest dudes, and very humble too.
Following on from a set that was made up of wall-to-wall hits, with everything from the new record sounding terrific, where do you go from there? An encore made up of ‘Eunoia’, ‘Big Thinks Do Remarkable’ and the bone-crushing favourite ‘Set Guitars To Kill’, which the crowd went fucking ballistic for. That sing-along for Big Thinks Do Remarkable is always one that puts a lump in my throat, it’s just so wonderful. What a terrific band.
Before the release of Heirs, I spoke with guitarist Rory to get an insight into what went into this new record and the feeling amongst them as they near in on ten years as a band. You can check that interview here.