The Front Bottoms & Manchester Orchestra Electrify Sold Out Brooklyn Steel (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

The Front Bottoms and Manchester Orchestra brought their co-headlining show to Brooklyn Steel for two evenings. On the second night (December 15th), The Front Bottoms hit the stage following Shannen Moser, and Manchester Orchestra closed out the gig.

With The Front Bottoms cutting their teeth in nearby Bergen County, N.J., this sold-out Brooklyn show felt like another homecoming — and the crowd arrived early and in force. Compared to their earlier tours, they’ve beefed up their live backing band in support of latest LP Going Grey. With the addition of a full-time keyboardist, trumpeter, bassist (with core member Tom Warren switching over to guitar) and a second drummer, the band has unlocked even more nuanced sounds for their pop-punk anthems to expand in new, interesting ways live. From Warren’s guitar solo on “Summer Shandy” to Roshane Karunaratne’s keytar bit on “The Beers” to the reverb on Brian Sella’s vocals on “Twin Size Mattress,” the show featured sounds that went beyond their studio recordings.

And the band also employed their most intricate set yet, leaning into drummer Matt Uychich’s Cheers-themed drum kit. There was an actual bar on stage with people (including frequent touring mate Kevin Devine at times) sitting and enjoying drinks as the show unfolded behind them.

From the opening track “West Virginia,” the crowd screamed along to pretty much every line. And the audience certainly felt the effects of the dual drummers on “The Plan (Fuck Jobs),” with the floor rattling with the force of the beat. Through the first third of the set there was some moshing, but it took “Flashlight” to ignite the crowd surfers who wouldn’t relent till the last song played.

Throughout, it was easy to see the fans respond most strongly to cuts from the band’s eponymous debut album and their sophomore effort, Talon of the Hawk. On “Maps,” as the crowd sang along with the line “And you’re so confident / But I hear you crying in your sleeping bag,” lead singer Brian Sella simply murmured “That was so fucking perfect — thank you.” He took a brief pause to take in the moment before launching back into the song full force. “Au Revoir (Adios)” also gave the band the opportunity to take a dramatic break mid-song before reaching the climax.

Of course, the band closed with what remains their biggest hit, “Twin Size Mattress.” The crowd went wild one last time as Uychich shook his tambourine. Towards the end of the song, Sella managed to snap all the strings on his acoustic guitar. He shrugged off the busted instrument and went all in with his vocals for the final bit. On the final line, the lights briefly cut out before returning to raucous cheers. Warren delivered an extended guitar outro, giving the crowd surfers a final chance to reach the front and the moshers to unleash their primal energy.

Next, Manchester Orchestra hit the stage. The band employed a simple yet effective lighting rig that managed to convey the emotions of their songs. They opened with “The Maze” largely concealed in darkness save for a few cutting beams of white light. On “The Sunshine,” the backdrop became a warm pattern of red and yellow hues. And with all the spotlights honing in on Hull and the other stage lights off, the band delivered a rare cover of Frightened Rabbit’s “My Backwards Walk.” Although Hull didn’t provide any commentary around the track, with the recent passing of Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, it seemed like a somber, poignant tribute to the late singer and collaborator.

Throughout the set, Hull commanded both the quiet moments and also the most furious breakdowns. On “Shake It Out,” the Manchester Orchestra frontman pogoed around the stage and leaned back while unleashing a guitar riff. (It’s worth mentioning that Manchester Orchestra’s live show take their breakdowns to another level in how heavy they sound on cuts like that and “The River.”) Yet on the final track before the encore, “I Can Feel a Hot One,” he also showcased his delicate vocals over the minimalist instrumentation.

Afterwards, the crowd cheered loudly for more. Somewhat surprisingly, neither The Front Bottoms nor Manchester Orchestra covered their recent collaborative single “Allentown.” But given the hits both bands rolled through, it was forgivable even if it would’ve been awesome to see everyone share the stage.

Manchester Orchestra returned for a two-song encore, starting with “The Gold,” with the audience joined in on a massive singalong for the chorus. The band ended with “The Silence,” which ended up being a fitting sonic journey that mirrored the set, from the slow-burning first half to the swelling outro.   

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