Leprous & Agent Fresco at Gorilla: Live Review
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Anthony Firmin
Resonating two distinct sets of emotions during their sets, long time musical accomplices Leprous and Agent Fresco gave Manchester a balanced dose of light and dark before a bubbling and energetic crowd.
Iceland's Agent Fresco's stock has been rising in progressive circles at the same rate their nation's football team is on the international circuit and now introducing new material to a set which focuses heavily on 2015's Destrier record, their bright, gracious and ultimately heart-warming set warmed the room whilst winter lurked outside.
There's a fervour to their chemistry, bassist Vignir Rafn Hilmarsson a constant moving creating shapes with his body and bass as angular as his playing while vocalist Anor Dan sang with expression and gravity. Every time this band performs they do so with unclouded emotions, every syllable sung, every note played echoes with the beating of their collective heart and suddenly you become embroiled in and touched by the subject matter of their songs. There's the homesick longing of Wait For Me with its piercing, slithering riffs and velvet vocals to the positive-edged mournfulness of Eyes Of A Cloud Catcher. See Hell is aggressive yet pained, executed with a forthright thump whilst Implosions is slower and moodier, rising to a stunning crescendo.
Final track Autumn Red sees Anor Dan wander the crowd, all smiles, hugs and high fives before climbing the back of the room to interact with a fan on crutches and look back at the room from his heightened position to finish the set like a priest delivering a sermon. All eyes are on him as his band's luscious musicality blankets the open-armed crowd.
On the flipside, for all the positivity, sunshine melodies and smile-curling atmosphere that they eschew, Norway's Leprous provided the polar opposite. They shift the mood instantaneously to something more dark and dramatic, replacing Agent Fresco's hope pocked compositions with gathering storm clouds from the moment cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, a recent addition to the band's live roster, began layering the sombre, funeral flavours of his instrument on top of each other. Proceedings suddenly took on a more nightmarish stance, but a nightmare everyone in the room tonight wanted to be a part of.
During Bonneville the smoke-enveloped stage provides a theatrical setting for sorrowful, operatic vocals and the track's slow, steady but ever shifting pulse to rise and rise. The thump of its latter stages creates the momentum from which Foe is emphatically performed before the jittery diapason of Illuminate - a song riddled with memorable hooks - adds a touch of brightness to their gloriously gloomy soundtrack.
Stuck and From The Flame, also pulled from last year's intelligent and accessible record, Malina, express the band's ingenious formula for contorting the time signatures of pop songs. And all this happens whilst the droning and macabre textures of cello quilts and covers their sounds. These two songs in particular sound triumphant and anthemic and help crown Leprous as a truly innovative, compelling and spectacular live experience.
A quirky and well chosen cover of Massive Attack's Angel keeps the audience both on their toes and immersed before The Price and, as ever, Slave round off one hell of a show.