Gig Review: ¡Forward, Russia! @ Manchester Academy 3, 27th April 2008

After a couple of years out of the limelight it must feel to ¡Forward, Russia! that they’re starting all over again. The last time we saw them it was in front of a healthy crowd in the Academy 2; just over a year later the Academy 3 was barely even half full.

With Johnny Foreigner stuck in Amsterdam it was left to The ABC Club to fill their support slot at short notice, and they did a fine, fine job. Their excellent six song set had me thinking of a collision between The Smiths and The Strokes; not a high-speed collision by any means, more like a fender bender, as the band were almost too laid back and impassive for comfort. However, there were plenty of clever guitar arrangements and dexterous Rourkesque basslines, though the band’s trump card is undoubtedly the striking vocals of Zandra Klievens, whose voice couples the nonchalant drawl of Julian Casablancas with Morrissey’s muted yodelling, in female form. Definitely a band to watch out for.

I’d heard of Grammatics before, but not actually heard them. They were fine – great musicians and the singer has a wonderful voice – but the songs lost their focus as the set wore on and began to elicit more proggy tendencies, leaving us thinking that in a couple of years time, Grammatics may well have fully completed their transformation into Muse.

The relatively small showing for ¡Forward, Russia! did nothing to dim the band’s enthusiasm. The great energy and intensity of their performance remained intact and the crowd responded with a highly animated mosh pit and plenty of crowd surfing and stage diving, some of it the highly dangerous knees first variety that had guitarist Whiskas remonstrating with the offenders. However, the sound mix was appalling: it sounded like the PA’s speaker cones had been stuffed with cotton wool and then submerged in a large tank of sludge. For a band whose music is all sharp edges and thunderous rhythms this had a huge bearing on my enjoyment of the gig.

Also on the downside, I’ve only heard the new album a couple of times and I’m distinctly underwhelmed by it. It certainly doesn’t fire on all cylinders like its predecessor, and it definitely gets a bit too proggy from time to time. I think that if I am going to like it then its going to take a while. With much of the set taken up by foggy renditions of the new material, I spent most of the gig completely impassive to what was going on on stage and in the crowd, “A Prospector Can Dream” the only new song that managed to raise the pulse a little, though the closing “Spanish Triangles” sounded much better than I remember it on record. The oldies they played were great, despite the sound, and included most of my favourites, with “Twelve” and “Nineteen” bringing back memories of previous glorious gigs. This was, however, the least fun I’ve had at a ¡Forward, Russia! gig. Hopefully the album is a bit of a grower and the band will get back to playing bigger venues over the next few months

¡Forward, Russia! – Nineteen

¡Forward, Russia!- A Prospector Can Dream

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