So if you’re lonely…
The venue is so important to the enjoyment of a gig. Give me a tiny tent or a dingy noise pit over a soulless arena or gigantic main stage any day of the week. With that in mind, it’s important to note that Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse is one of the finest venues out there. Nestled in the heart of Stretford, Victoria Warehouse is an imposing but beautiful former operational warehouse that now doubles up as a hotel and performance space.
After a few drinks in the Northern Quarter of Manchester we stumbled into the doorway of the humongous Victoria Warehouse unsure of what to expect from what is a totally unique venue. What we found was a labyrinthine cavern made up of different rooms with various stages and bars. The basement level of the warehouse maintains the veneer of the original structure and this gives Victoria Warehouse the feel of a secret, underground club. Possibly full of vampires. Sorry, I watched Blade again recently.
We performed a few laps to get our bearings and in doing so took in Glass Caves, who were hairy, loud and full of Yorkshire passion, Lion a female singer-songwriter who combined a guttural snarl with an imposing stage presence and the View’s Kyle Falconer who appears to have gone solo in order to sing songs that aren’t as good as those he performs in his day job. Spirited but underwhelming.
Reverend and the Makers however are enjoying an Indian summer. After being unfairly written off as a one hit wonder, the Sheffield band are now playing to their biggest ever audiences and have carved out a reputation as one of the UK’s most reliable live bands. Jon McClure has cornered the man of the people market and the band leave nothing on the stage. Open Your Window and, of course, Heavyweight Champion of the World are well received but it is during Bassline that the crowd really goes off with flares and pint glasses adorning the shadow strewn ceilings of the Victoria Warehouse. On a personal note, it is also pleasing to see Joe Carnall Jnr of Milburn playing bass with his Sheffield brethren, mainly because I like to see his face.
I saw The Cribs just a few weeks ago at Bingley Festival where they played an unstoppable show. Their set here is short and punishing with the Wakefield band hammering through 12 songs starting with the brutal stomp of Our Bovine Public and ending with a show stopping rendition of Be Safe. Manchester is also treated to the first live performance of Nothing for eight years, a storming rendition of live favourite Come On, Be a No-One and a triumphantly well received I’m a Realist.
The crowd sing happy birthday to Cribs drummer Ross Jarman, I drink four pints of fruit cider, and my friend bonds with a random couple at the bar over pictures of cats. All in all, the evening is hurtling towards being classified as a success.
I last saw Franz Ferdinand at Leeds Festival in 2004 when they were fresh faced pretenders to the indie crown and I was a 17-year-old chubster with a crap fringe and massive jeans. Since then, the Glaswegian band have gone from strength to strength culminating in the release of their fifth studio album Always Ascending in 2018 and I have had a haircut and discovered that I like olives. It’s been a roller coaster.
Do You Want To kicks things off and the well oiled crowd go suitably wild. A jazzed up Dark of the Matinee fits perfectly in this shadowy venue and recalls the halcyon days of the third wave of indie bands that also included Kasabian and the Arctic Monkeys among others.
It is a testament to the band’s staying power that new tracks Lazy Boy and Glimpse of Love are just as well received as old standards like No You Girls and Michael. The latter sounds particularly powerful and deserves to be remembered as one of the eras great singles.
A groovy Ulysses closes out the first part of the set but it is the song that precedes it that will live longest in the memory. I remember the first time I heard Take Me Out I was utterly entranced by the middle section that sees one of the most exuberant breakdowns ever and ensured that Franz Ferdinand will forever have a place on the indie disco dancefloor of my heart. It is performed joyously and the crowd respond in kind.
An extended version of This Fire seals the deal and features mass singalongs, that thing where everyone crouches down and then jumps up again (no good for my knees), and lots of smiling. Alex Kapranos and his band are clearly delighted to be there and in the absence of Jarvis Cocker, he is about as close as the current indie music scene gets to the King of the Sheffield.
At the end of the gig I am greeted by my delirious looking companion, inexplicably in the possession of eight pints of lager. The night descends into a farce of Guinness, taxis and absolutely massive kebabs.
It has been an evening of familiar friends in the shape of the Cribs and Reverend and the Makers, old relationships renewed (Franz Ferdinand) and a brand new acquaintance in Manchester’s superb Victoria Warehouse. Lock up your kebab shops, we’ll be back again soon…