Anton Newcombe’s well-established fuzz-rock project The Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM) has been in full-swing since its formation in 1990, and in the 33 years of the collective playing live, their nature for raucous riffs entangled in 60s psychedelic tendencies have made them very recognisable. However at the Ritz, the band’s recognisable sound is beginning to peel over the boredom that ensues to make numerous people leave early or continue their conversations regardless of the music that plays. Had it not been for The Soundcarriers literally carrying the show on their shoulders with an energetic support slot, this review would be very short and negative for the main part.

From the beginning, there seemed to be an element of puzzlement as to why a sold-out show seemed to be void of anticipation and well… people. It’s understandable for a venue to be slightly sparse when there’s an hour before the main act is supposed to be onstage and the support have just taken to it, but this seemed to take the biscuit, especially as the central part of the crowd area is barely full. It set the tone for something that would reflect the emptiness in the music that ensued from BJM, despite the copious guitars on stage suggesting they would fill the void left by the half-absent crowd.

The first act was not a musician, but a magician – a first for me and the few people I met prior to the gig. The Magic Mod, as Ben Taylor is professionally known, provided an exciting addition that you wouldn’t have expected from a support act let alone one who was supporting a well-established band like BJM. Taylor combines the enigma of two Pauls (Weller and Daniels) and leaves me bamboozled with the nature of his tricks and his onstage presence that gives a “rock and roll” glow-up for magic. Magicians are the new rockstars it seems, but it’s even more apparent when you combine the two together.

Nottingham-based The Soundcarriers provided the main support act. The sonic troubadours have gained a committed following in the last decade for their elemental-driven rhythms that, to pardon a very obvious pun, carry the sound like a vociferous, howling wind. The lucid shimmering sounds are reminiscent of Broadcast and Stereolab and it packs a punch. The Soundcarriers have given the crowd the pulse that they need to refocus, something that most of those needed reminding of due to their nature to constantly chat while acts perform; a pet peeve of mine.

When BJM did come to the stage, there wasn’t a great acknowledgment of them at all. The atmosphere seemed rather flat – a worrying sign. There seemed to be very little acknowledgement from the band themselves of those who came out for a sold-out event, but this works in tandem when neither seems that interested. In a set that lasted over 2 hours, BJM didn’t seem very comfortable, Newcombe constantly having to pause to have strong words with the soundman and at one point, telling his band to “get it together” after a false start. This atmosphere could have been overlooked as an isolated incident, but when it happened the second and third time, it began to wane my feelings of interest. 

This is such a shame because the set included the band’s usual cluster of notable tunes like “Anemone”, “Pish” and “Fingertips”,  trying to galvanise me and my interest back from the earlier slip-ups. The myriad of those on stage were bound to cause friction and the lack of acknowledgement when the band left the stage, ultimately left a sour taste. Percussionist Joel Gion at least had the courtesy to say “Thank You Manchester!”, but it was little consolation.

BJM are usually known for giving a show of excitement to raise energy leaves and to sway bodies. But the moods were swinging so much that there was only one thing I came out with at the end, a state of confusion of not really knowing what I was meant to feel – an emptiness displayed by some of those who left early. I wish I could join them.