Why? – Live Review

Why? @ The Deaf Institute

19/03/2010

by Ian Burke 

A sudden downpour has kicked up the potassium in the soil and put a late dampener on a real hibernation-buster of a spring day. Meanwhile, the unexpectedly drenched indie-rock denizens of Manchester are standing agape at Josiah Wolf, drummer of tonight’s headliners and solo artist in his own right, whose tip-toe-quiet brand of folk taunts the enormous bank of speakers covering the wall behind the bar.

A swift changeover later, and artsy Berlin quintet, I Might Be Wrong, celebrate their début in this part of the world by all wearing something green, although their Santa’s elf look soon gives way to Smurf-chic when a blue light is pointed their way instead. Fancy sending someone who’s colour-blind to review a gig, eh?

Lisa von Billerbeck has a voice which is breathy and understated, verging on coy, while Andreas Bronkowski and the lanky Florian Frenzel on bass and guitar respectively, couldn’t look any happier to be here. No instrument dominates proceedings, with subtlety definitely being the order of the day.

By time they take their bow, the room is at bursting point with damp new arrivals, steam evaporating from their heads and into the Deaf Institute’s high ceiling, creating its own micro climate which threatens to rain back down and soak us all over again.

The humidity doesn’t concern Why?, of course, despite Yoni Wolf frequently having to wipe the condensation from his bottle-bottom glasses. The frontman treats us to exaggerated tai-chi stage moves and shakes a single yellow maraca during the opening ‘Song Of The Sad Assassin’, by the end of which his grey lamb t-shirt already shows flecked signs of sweat.

His returning elder brother, Josiah, thumps lumps out of his kit which is placed at the front of the stage like a throwback to 1970’s Top Of The Pops, while the revolutions of the venue’s giant mirror ball perfectly reflect the deliberately paced tempo of the tunes, ‘Against Me’ even bringing spine-tingling five-part harmonies into play.

‘The Vowels Pt. 2’, the lead track from 2008’s ‘Alopecia’ LP, sees everyone in the room practically convulse to its insistent bassline and mouth back the “cheery-a, cheery-e, cheery-i, cheery-o, cheery-u” chorus.

The setlist is handed out in individual pieces by Yoni at the end of each of the thirteen songs, including the most voraciously called-for encore these ears have ever heard, and although there is shamefully no room for ‘Rubber Traits’, this is best show of the year so far, simple as that.

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