Graveyard & Bombus at Academy 3: Live Review
Gravelly rock n' roll on a rainy winter evening
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Anthony Firmin
Graveyard delivered a performance that was rough around the edges in Manchester on Thursday night with frontman/guitarist Joakim Nilsson's overly aggressive vocals and off colour visage dampening the charm of a band well loved in the city.
Beforehand, support act Bombus had done little to set the mood. The Gothenburg act dished out a mistake ridden 45 minutes of rock that added little imagination to a sound we've heard all too often before. And what's more is that the band, collectively speaking as there were indivdual exceptions, didn't look like they wanted to be there which, in turn, failed to liven up the crowd. Musically, there was an element of High On Fire to the attempted driving power chord riffs and Feffe Berglund's shouted vocals, but all his efforts seemed half-hearted and there were plenty of audible mistakes and bum notes particularly with every member’s vocals; the timing was off, fingers would land on the wrong frets and the drummer, doing his part to liven up the crowd mid-way through, couldn't even clap along to his own song in time. That being said, the sticksman did provide the only highlight of the set, a rollicking drum intro leading into their track Enter The Night. That was the only moment of their prolonged supporting set that wasn't underwhelming.
In the interim, the crowd grew exponentially and they managed to fire themselves up - via the bar - and so by the time Graveyard walked out on stage, the mood was relatively excitable; the room was ready for a good time.
What followed wasn't so much a bad performance as an unexpected one. Nilsson, who usually a cool figure with presence and an incredible, velvety, blues-infused voice, was tonight looking deshevelled and ragged, his voice rasping and ornamenting his lyrics in ways that often deviated far from the album versions. At times, their wild performance added an element of danger to their set - Goliath had an extra edge and greater energy - but elsewhere it detracted from the soulful beauty that made their sharp, jagged and attacking rock n' roll more than just that. Uncomfortably Numb was uncomfortably scattered, vocally. It's alluring softness and vulnerability was instead disjointed, more carless than cutting.
Step away from their out of form frontman however, and you have a band that is tight and pleasant to watch. Fellow gutiarist Jonatan Larocca-Ramm nailed every single one of his solos, they burned with passion and emotion, his erratic yet controlled, wavering bends draped in character whilst bassist Truls Mörck, who was solid throughout, took to the mic on the upbeat and dancing Bird of Paradise.
Ultimately, the boistrous crowd was telling of band succedding in their job as entertainers, but, having left MR beyond enamoured with previous Manchester shows, there is an air of disappointment to the evening as we know they can, and have, done far better than this.