Sunday 31 July 2022

Desperate Journalist / The Empty Page - Manchester Night And Day - 30th July 2022

It's an impressive feat that Desperate Journalist and The Empty Page have sold out Night And Day in an environment where gig attendances are through the floor and a significant element of the Manchester gig going community are on their annual pilgrimage to the Lakes for Kendal Calling where Desperate Journalist are playing the following day. The Night And Day is consequently a sweat box with a fan on stage for the headliner to keep it barely manageable for them, but once the music started people were oblivious to it.

It's an emotional night for The Empty Page as it's drummer Jim's final gig with them as he leaves them for personal reasons, but rather than be a sad night for them they make it one of celebration even though the interactions between long-term friends Kel and him will be difficult to replace. Their ten-song set moves between their debut, the singles they've released in the intervening years and their second album which they're in the process of recording, covering old crowd favourites like When The Cloud Explodes and Big Wheel as well as the new Dry Ice and Level Sedentary but what's consistent throughout is the energy and passion in both the songs and their performance.

Kel's boundless enthusiasm in performance is matched by that of guitarist Giz and Jim, the songs are lifted when Kel and Jim's vocals combine and it all transmits to the crowd, those of whom don't know them being drawn in by the infectious energy whilst those that do have already surrendered to it as they give a show worthy of headline status in its own right. Jim signs off with an emotional speech and musical thanks to his bandmates.

Fast approaching a decade as a band and with four impressive albums in their pocket, Desperate Journalist's seventy minute set is a timely reminder of how they've created a body of work under the radar of the mainstream industry despite being an intense, direct and powerful live unit fronted by Jo, but whose real strength is in the collective. Simon and Caz's rhythm section is the bedrock and the addition of Charley as a second guitarist to Rob has really beefed up and strengthened their live sound  When Jo leaves the stage at the end of the final song of the main set Armageddon the other four are left to let loose to the point that the Night And Day feels too small and claustrophobic not to mention way too hot.

As they finish opening track Hollow, things threaten to go awry. Simon looks at his amp and declares "my amp is on fire and I don't know what to do". First, Caz, risking electrocution, and then the sound engineer fix it and there's a few minutes delay before the show resumes, disaster averted. It does nothing to stop their momentum though.

That catalogue is well represented through early single Cristina, still as potent as ever, through the likes of Why Are You So Boring, Be Kind and Hollow from Grow Up and Cedars and set-closing Satellite from In Search Of The Miraculous.  As this is their first Manchester headline since the release of their fourth album Maximum Sorrow! last year, the set does however focus heavily on this - seven of the album's eleven tracks get an airing and as a whole it's their strongest body of work to date and particularly the likes of Personality Girlfriend, Poison Pen and Everything You Wanted in the live environment where Desperate Journalist are best witnessed where you can see and feel the passion and tension in the songs. 

It feels like Desperate Journalist, intentionally or not, opened their sound up to be more accessible and instant without losing any of the ferocious intensity that has always been their calling card. The roar for an encore and then the final cheers of appreciation at the end of it show that the biggest stages they deserve should be the next stopping off point on their journey.

Desperate Journalist's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.  

The Empty Page's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.


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