Tuesday, 12 February 2019

REVIEW: Whenyoung - The Deaf Institute, Manchester

On route to see Irish three piece Whenyoung, I was pretty confident on what I'd be getting after listening through the Given Up EP and various singles. A sort of amalgamation of The Cranberries and Wolf Alice… a blend of mellow soothing sounds bordering on haunting in their somberness. The alter ego a clattering of symbols being a gateway into the Limerick pop rock outfits more upbeat sing-a-longs.

The band weren't exactly resonating confidence upon setting up for themselves - lead vocalist and bassist Aoife Power came across as rather shy and reclusive, offering glances only to the guitar, floor or fellow band members. Intervals of cheering from the odd person in the crowd was the only initial support received by the band as idle chat started to surround the Deaf Institute.

The gig kicked off to a prerecorded spoken monologue/sample - a theme which ran throughout the performance to pretty limited effect - which bridged itself straight into Pretty Pure, one of their most infectious offerings. Live, this was uncanny from the recording, certainly vocally. Pinpoint. A very strong introduction to settle any suggestion of pre-show nerves.

Dreams was next up from the three piece. Points throughout the set and certainly during this song threw an ode to the late Dolores O'Riordan's beautifully harrowing vocals. Power's wailing accompanied with backing harmonies were a simple and effective way to further immerse the audience into what they were wanting to achieve tonight.

Heaven On Earth followed and this was a shift to a more upbeat energy. A delightful melody as well as vocals in general from Power and subtle backing from drummer Andrew Flood resulting in a receptive head bob and nod from various points in the crowd. It was also at this point it was hard not to take note of guitarist Niall Burns ability to look effortlessly nonchalant and cool with his playing… and like he really, really wanted to be the VIP of the three. Burns had a tendency to randomly meander into the middle of the stage during most songs, ensuring the lights hit his face just right whilst hitting the notes in a blasé fashion. It was rather odd to start off with before becoming a tad pretentious in its regularity.

The set would tend to alternate between a slow number, to another catchy pop tune. Now I've Seen It provided an a capella section highly pleasing to the ear before building up into a powerful crescendo of choral wails from the guitar and Power alike.

A welcome increase in tempo was brought into play once more with Look To The Future, and this was the first true indication of the audience swaying to the Irish band's charming originality. It was a hard crowd to keep entertained at points but this song brought a receptiveness from the more die hard fans which turned into yet more infectious head nodding and feet tapping from the rest. Whenyoung's simple, cheerful and upbeat melody's create a 'I’m sure I've heard this before’ vibe to them. Before you can think of what it may sound like, you're already singing along to an original catchy chorus.

The set petered out somewhat in terms of what they were offering as it all became a bit too similar unfortunately, one of the sets more pivotal numbers in Sleepers didn't quite have the effect intended by the London based outfit.

There was a slightly theatrical feel to this gig - the Deaf Institute itself had a homely small stage theatre feel to it which paired well with the opening to Sleepers; Power using only the mic at this point while being lit up under the spotlight. Power's vocals are beautifully haunting, and the attention of the room was very much switched onto this energy she was bringing but, something was lacking. This moment had the potential to captivate the entire room but sound issues beyond the band's control unfortunately deflated that opportunity. Take nothing away from Power's voice though, stunning for many points during the set..

In spite of the slight sound issues, from this point the crowd had warmed and were behind the band. The Others - a tribute to the victims of Grenfell Tower - introduced the first bit of audience participation, Burns getting everyone clapping along before building into the rather poignant intention behind the song.

Overall the gig painted an interesting picture into what this up-and-coming band are about. It didn't have the awe and energy of what I imagine their Irish or indeed London shows will likely provide but it suggested that come the next tour and with more time to listen and appreciate them, Whenyoung may become one those bands you just have to tell your friends about.

Reviewer - Drew James Tobias
on - 10/2/19

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