IST IST // Proletariat // OCEANS ON MARS Live at Manchester Academy

It’s a welcome proper hometown return for the band after nearly two years away thanks to Covid. Yes, they’ve done a socially distanced gig but they don’t really count, right? They also warmed up for the tour at the Deaf Institute but this is the 1st full-on gig since they played Trinity Church a month and a bit before lockdown happened and it’s also the biggest crowd they’ve played to as headliners to date. In those near two years not only was their debut album released where the aforementioned Trinity gig gave it its debut but a second was written, produced, and released so this tour, originally to promote Architecture has a sibling too now in The Art Of Lying, a rather apt title considering what is happening politically currently.

Oceans On Mars – Bit of a curveball delivered with tonight’s starter, the Hard Rock sound came as some surprise, more than you might take on first opinion looking at the band as they stride on stage or if you’d checked them out on Spotify (other streaming services are available) as live they hit much harder than they do on recordings but it’s great to see the younger generation of musicians embracing the Gods of Metal. 
Looking around at the crowd it’s clear to see they have a small following in early to see them and I can see why, there’s a fantastic energy to their on-stage performance and special props to the drummer, that lads got some skills! 

With Songs like Until We Vanish and Don’t Tell Me Where I Am expect to see then on one of the smaller stages at Download sometime in the future, definitely a band you need to check out if you like your music with a harder edge.

Proletariat – Another serving from Manchester.

Again another band a lot heavier than the doom merchants headlining who the majority of the crowd have come to see but this time I’m struggling to offer something positive, their sound is not unlike say Nirvana, Virginmarys, The Blinders to name but a few but I felt they are like a band looking for an identity. It’s good that a band has variety within their repertoire but it seems to me that lead singer James Cummings has a bit of an identity crisis going on between songs, maybe down to the difference between older recordings and newer but it all came across as a bit disjointed, new song Don’t Turn Out The Light is truly excellent but for Manchester outsiders maybe you can only push the Manchurian accent so far before Sunshiiiinnnneeee becomes annoying. All that said, one lad in the crowd clearly loved them tho and was bouncing from the beginning and they managed to ignite a few pockets in the crowd somewhat but looking around I don’t think the majority of tonight’s crowd will become new fans.

Ist Ist – On fashionably late, lighting guy Ashley Ennevers strobe lighting is in full pulsating effect for the opener Wolves and what is immediately noticeable from the off is the sound is stronger, fuller, and more powerful than most of the crowd will have heard from them before, finally the effect delivered between sound, sight, and venue matches what Ist Ist’s songs needed.

Looking around the eclectic crowd full of people who were probably gigging in the days of Joy Division right down to those studying in this great building, they’re all more animated than I’ve seen previously at Ist Ist gigs bar the night at The Lantern a few years ago which will probably go down in Ist Ist Folklore, there are some great pubs in Halifax that serve rather strong beer…

It only takes a couple of songs before the band is removing layers, probably down to the heat coming off the strobes as I could feel them as far back as the sound desk, Matt was now showing off his new bit of ink “87” on his arm to celebrate their recently charted 2nd Album, an amazing feat for a self-publishing band with an almost zero marketing budget releasing at this time of the year.

Forth song Middle Distance has the crowd going from moving heads to clapping and bouncing to the beat of Joel’s incredible powerful drumming, something that has been instantly noticeable on the latest tour. A New Love Song has Matt’s synths coming to the fore combining with Adams vocals creating a mystical atmosphere within the venue as the sound bounces off the walls before Joel kicks in again thumping everyone in the stomach.

Firm fan favourite Emily has the crowd clapping to the beat and singing the guitar intro above the band from the off and once again the fronts bouncing along to what is starting to feel like a stadium-filling band as the anthemic sound and lighting attacked your senses, so much so that the crowd carry on singing even after the song finish’s much to Andy’s amusement calling them IstIst FC.

Another sign that tonight is a special night for the band, for a frontman Adam is a man of few words in-between songs as it’s usually Andy on the bass that does the addressing and instead, Adam usually tends to try and fade in the background, but during Preachers Warning he is owning the stage, arms outstretched to the bright burnt orange background and jokingly later on telling the crowd “You might not be able to tell from the face but I am having a good time, up here with my best mates. And Andy…”

Other performance highlights were Extreme Greed, a song that if you’re of a certain age you wouldn’t be amiss in thinking it was a Simple Minds cover especially if you’re hearing it reverberating around the walls like here tonight, all it’s missing is Jim Kerr telling the crowd to clap their hands but tonight it feels so right and You’re Mine, an old crowd fav that has the long term fans bouncing along and with final song Slowly We Escape, which ended on a frenzied crescendo along with yet another spectacular light show once again from Ash.

The addition of Matt on keyboards and second guitar around three years ago has borne the fruits to not only a frankly incredible live performance but greater variety in song, adding a much-needed dimension to a band that started ‘just” seven years ago. Based on tonight’s performance, the ball that just started rolling pre lockdown is gathering apace at a rapid rate, the vision Andy & Co had for their live sound is now actually happening and if anything is to be taken from the performance there’s no doubt tonight this could be the one that propels Ist Ist into the upper realms of Manchesters biggest bands.

Yes they were really that good!

📸 Photo Credit – Neil Winward