There are some venues that are filled with their own charm and personality. Manchester’s Academy 2 is not one of those. Whilst it’s little brother sits upstairs playing host to variety of smaller bands the enormous Academy 1 proudly perches roadside following it’s recent renovations, number 2 is somewhere pointlessly in the middle of it all. A black box in the middle of a building, hosting mid-sized bands, it’s an ill-fitting place for someone like The Pains of being Pure at Heart to play. Their last Mancunian excursion was held in the lovely, cosy Chorlton Irish Centre, which the band proudly describe as their highlight of the year. By the sounds of things, they’re not alone in their evaluation, with ‘gig of the year’ being an oft used phrase by anyone who attended.
That was for Manchester instution Friends of Mine all-dayer – and they returned to celebrate their 5th birthday. The dull surroundings looked to be contagious as the New Yorkers opened their set with an uninspired few tracks, their trademark jangly pop somehow getting lost in the cavernous architecture, translating into a noisy, aimless drone. However, any band who have as much life and energy in their songs as Pains do are pretty much impossible to keep down. Their debut album has been topping end of year lists around the world and it’s obvious why. Despite the slow start, the crowd are hyperactive from the start, but by the time ‘This Love is Fucking Right’ is played, the sea of pogoing twenty-somethings are visible from the back, with a couple of people clearly thinking crowd surfing is an acceptable practice at a twee-shoegaze gig.
The band plainly put their all into performing, and genuinely seemed happy to be playing the city again, but despite the blatant quality of ‘Come Saturday’ and ‘Young Aduly Friction’, the difficulty of playing such a large venue when it’s anything other than sold out is obvious. Whilst the front was a swirling mass of drunken bodies, the back was sparsely populated by swaying couples, breifly interupted in their romance by a drunken fight. That said, the set was still tight but lacked the urgency that makes good gigs great. The addition of a staged encore is rarely appopriate, but when it brings with it what is arguably the band’s best song, it’s welcome. Though many of the lovers had left to catch their buses of whatever, ‘Everything with you’ would stick out as an obvious highlight however it was played. The Pains of being Pure at Heart are plainly a special band – hopefully next time they return, they’ll be given the chance to play somewhere with as much personality as their music.
The Pains of being Pure at Heart – Higher than the Stars (last.fm)