Manchester Academy 3
Adored around the globe and with enough indie-rock cred to last them into rehab, Black Lips are a chaotically brilliant live band, or so F&L remembered…
We left the cities Roadhouse venue two years ago having witnessed a tight, sharp, on-top-of-their-game rock group touring their superb Good Bad Not Evil album to much acclaim.
Two years later and they find themselves upgraded to the larger Academy 3 on a gorgeous bank holiday evening. Maybe it’s the sunny weather or the £13 door price, but a distinct lack of pizazz greets the Atlanta four piece onto the stage.
The fist pumping first six rows of the crowd do their best to rouse their heroes, and things begin well with the honky-tonk drawl of ‘Drugs’ and the garage avalanche of ‘O Katrina’: a bass-heavy trawl through New Orleans via Hurricane Katrina.
Bassist and singer Jared maintains a cool demeanour whilst others over-egg their parts around him: to his right guitarist Ian resembles old time rocker Jimmy Nail with his denim and dodgy teeth, while stage left the enigmatic Cole looks incapable to belting anything out: delivering flat, flustered guitar and vocals.
But there’s still something special lurking behind the wasted, heroic chic. ‘Cold Hands’ could be an outtake from classic garage rock companion Nuggets, while ‘Bad Kids’ is a life-affirming ode to youthful rebellion. Elsewhere, new material fails to ignite, but ‘Buried Alive’s comic book horror shows the ‘Lips’ wayward genius.
At the finale fans clamour onstage for a good old boogie: quite a spectacle (we learn later that Cole’s guitar is stolen) but also an ancient stage act that appeared a little, well, desperate. Pack this rock’n’roll circus into a smaller venue and you may have seen one of the gigs of the year, but the feeling just wasn’t there tonight.
Written originally for Clash Music.