Monday 26 September 2022

The Big Moon / Gently Tender / Arxx - Manchester Academy 2 - 25th September 2022

A pandemic and a pregnancy pushed back The Big Moon's biggest Manchester headline show by two years but finally, ahead of the release of their third album Here Is Everything, Juliette, Celia, Soph and Fern played this sold-out show on Sunday night. Support came from Gently Tender, with a familiar face in the band, and Arxx.

"Alt rock gal pal duo" Hanni and Clara are Arxx. By the end of their half-hour set they've got the venue eating out of the palms of their slightly nervous and awkward hands with a set of loud, noisy songs that contrast with their between song chat about buying three pairs of the same trousers, confusion around the date of their next Manchester show amongst other trivia that comes into the heads as they ride out the gaps between songs. The songs though very much do their bidding for them, the powerful Ride And Die, a new song that weaves a portion of Cher's Do You Believe In Life After Love as well as singles Call Me Crazy and Iron Lung. They make think they're painfully uncool, but in their own way the fact that they're different makes them far cooler than plenty of self-appointed cool kids.

We know Gently Tender. The band that formed from the ashes of Palma Violets are a very different beast though, adding The Big Moon's Celia to their line-up and drenching their songs in harmonies and vocals that come together to lift these delicately and exquisitely crafted songs up on to a plain where they will simply sweep you away with their simple beauty. The album's key tracks - Dead Is Dead, True Colours, Right Time, God Didn't Leave The Factory and Love All The Population - all feature. The sound may not be anything particularly groundbreaking, but it's rare to hear this style of music done quite so well. They also look like they're having fun too - especially when they announce it's drummer Will's birthday and Juliette of The Big Moon appears with a cake and everyone sings Happy Birthday. Across the set, Sam and Celia's vocals combine perfectly, sharing the lead on some tracks, one lead one backing on others, but they're very much a band in the collective sense, each one of them contributing to make the whole.

Half way through the set, just before a gorgeous acapella opening to Love In The 4th Dimension's Formidable, Celia tells us that tomorrow is the eighth anniversary of the first ever The Big Moon gig and tonight's set very much shows their development as a band from the frantic urgent early singles and debut album (Sucker, Cupid and Bonfire also feature, the latter with Juliette down on the barrier) which still pack a punch to the more widescreen vision of their follow-up Walking Like We Do and the soon-to-be-released Here Is Everything, many of the songs from which are themed around Juliette's recent pregnancy and childbirth. Whilst the life concerns in the songs may have changed, the instant hit of the songs, the gorgeous harmonies and melodies are still very much at the centre of everything The Big Moon do.

Given the two years since the gig was originally scheduled, nothing was going to stop it happening even Fed Ex having lost all the band's gear on the way back from Spain so they're using spare or borrowed kit, but if they hadn't mentioned it, and self-deprecatingly joked about referencing it constantly on their socials, no one would have been any wiser. Whilst touring just before the release of an album might not be ideal, the set is heavily focused on their previous album Walking Like We Do which hadn't really been given the touring cycle it deserved because of the pandemic. Seven of the sixteen songs come from it, including the opening quartet of It's Easy Then, Take A Piece, Don't Think and a glorious Barcelona and the two-song encore of Waves, for which Juliette returns to the barrier and asks us all to turn on our phone torches lighting up the whole of Academy 2 with a sea of arms and a glorious uplifting conclusion of Your Light.

The new songs manage the mean trick of sounding familiar on early listens whilst demonstrating a progression in The Big Moon's sound, particularly their latest release Trouble which ends the main part of the set. The other three new songs - including the album's first single Wide Eyes as well as 2 Lines (about the moment Juliette discovered she was pregnant) and the close harmonies of Daydreaming - have an uplifting feel to them. The harder edges of the debut may not be present, but The Big Moon still retain the ability to intoxicate with their music. A tight-knit gang, they get better with each passing record and tour and the Manchester audience adore them.

The Big Moon's official site can be found here and they are also on Facebook and Twitter.

They play Kingston Banquet Records (October 12), London XOYO (14), Bristol Rough Trade (15), Nottingham Rough Trade (16), Liverpool Jacaranda (18), Brighton Resident (19) and Southampton Vinilo (20).

Gently Tender are on Facebook and Twitter.

Arxx are on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Even The Stars on Twitter at @eventhestarsuk and like our Facebook page for all the latest updates

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