The Boxer Rebellion returned to Manchester in support of their third album ‘The Cold Still’ with a smile on their faces and a confident bounce in their stride. They powered through a ninety-minute set showcasing material from all three of their albums with an energy and enthusiasm that unfortunately didn’t transcend to the audience. Perhaps because it was a Sunday night or maybe some people would have preferred to be at the Beady Eye gig (which singer Nathan Nicholson jokingly asked), whatever the reason the majority were subdued throughout, even at times not particularly paying attention.
I was unfamiliar with all but two songs from their discography having previously only heard the singles ‘Code Red’ and Watermelon’ until the Friday before this didn’t curtail my enjoyment in the slightest. The songs tonight were so accessible you don’t have to be familiar with them to be drawn in and taken over. As the gig progressed I began to realise that I had been depriving myself of a sound that was both lush and epic, embedded with an intricate flow of soaring vocals, reverb guitar, deep bass and mesmerising drumming, all of which pulled at my gut and found me applauding mid song on many occasion.
Opening song ‘The Runner’ from new album ‘The Cold Still’ set standards very high with its soaring chorus, fortunately they never dropped and this can only be a testament to the impressive back catalogue that they have accumulated. ‘Organ Song’ from the same album could easily be a stadium anthem with the pounding drums of Piers Hewitt driving the song along in a fashion reminiscent of Doves, no pun intended. The vocals of Nathan Nicholson were so impressive tonight that at times I was reminded of Jeff Buckley, particularly on ‘Flashing Red Light Means Go’ and ‘Evacuate’.
The highlight of the set was ‘Spitting Fire’ and I was rather surprised that The Boxer Rebellion didn’t finish tonight with this. It was challenged closely by ‘Watermelon’, a song that echoes back to ‘A Northern Soul’ era The Verve. When the band left the stage after later I fully expected it to be the end of their set and I subsequently made the error of making my way to the exit whilst the house lights were still down, inevitably The Boxer Rebellion returned for a 3 song encore which ended with ‘The Gospel Of Goro Adachi’. Staying for this meant that I now missed the last tram home, but it was more than worth it!