I’ve been spending a lot of time in Manchester lately and over the course my visits, I’ve been to a few great gigs including Rodrigo Y Gabriela, The Pogues and Deer Tick. But on Friday night we decided we would take in a couple of local bands. My girlfriend’s friend James Kelly was playing at an unsigned night at Dry Bar (a venue I’m told is experiencing a massive downturn. It did look pretty shoddy on Friday).
On the way in though, I noticed a name I recognised on the roster of acts: Ardentjohn. I first encountered the Islanders at Leith Festival about four years ago. From there, I reviewed a single and their debut album, before meeting the band for a pint and a chat (I think) in the Best Western Hotel. They had also recently been in contact regarding their new album and kindly sent me a copy. I was delighted to happen upon them, having been impressed by their new LP.
On The Wire continues on a similarly blissed-out trajectory to their debut set, When The Time Comes. I remember comparing them to The Verve previously. The comparison is tenuous enough upon revisiting their work, but I think I was getting at their tendency to drift into pseudo-psychedelic acoustic noodling. Seeing them live, I was impressed by their solidity as a unit. They’ve added a cellist to the mix, which certainly augments what they had before. It builds on what was already a rich, organic sound. Their songs seem remarkably well rounded, the songwriting is confident (and has grown in this respect) and their performance was self-contained. The highlight of their set, though, was an early song: Orange Nights.
I spoke to lead singer Keiron Mason before they went on. He’d just spotted Guy Garvey in the crowd and was cursing his luck. “I wish I’d noticed him after we’d finished our set!” He needn’t have been nervous. Their set was enjoyable and a refreshing reminder of what a good band they are. The smallish Manchester crowd seemed to share my appreciation and it was great to bump into them again. Small world.