Plini Meets Satan In Manchester
We meet up with the Australian guitar virtuoso as he embarks on his first run of overseas headline shows
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Anthony Firmin
Australian guitar virtuoso Plini played only his second overseas headline show to a sold out crowd in Manchester, which included the daunting, on looking presence of Satan himself. But as the lights around the hellishly decorated room reacted to the dazzling craftsmanship on display here tonight, there was a flicker in his eye.
"The tour is going great so far. Today I feel immeasurably better than yesterday after the flight," the guitarist had told us earlier that evening, in the air-conditioned confides of his tour bus. A low humming underpinned our conversation. "I genuinely didn't expect it to feel that good in terms of crowd energy. It blew my mind."
"I've been treated endlessly in terms of shows. Coming here as an opener with Animals As Leaders last year was pretty much the best way to come to Europe for the first time. It was the ideal crowd but with endlessly more people than I would have played to on my own."
As the band made their way from their backstage area, through pockets of the crowd and onto the stage that nestles slap bang in the centre of the venue, applause began to crackle. Soon, sweet and gracious melody lines breezed their way through the room. From the dislocated djent rhythms that sat atop the silky smooth chord progressions in Electric Sunshine, to the symphonic tinged crescendos of Cascade, a song dominated by fiery turns of pace, it was an immensely colourful set.
“Something I’ve been getting into which hopefully is interesting to other guitarists is what you are doing on guitar and why. So, what makes you happy and what makes you frustrated and how you can kind of take the negative things and turn them into positive experiences. Playing guitar is a luxury in life when you compare it the need for food and shelter, it can be a great way to be endlessly happy. The best outlet for your emotions is through music.”
Out on the stage, his pure, unfiltered joy at simply being on the other side of the world, 17,000km from home and in front of a packed and receptive crowd is clear to see. He dedicates End of Everything to the giant Satan sculpture that looms over the sound desk, a song which entwines dark, impenetrable moments with ones of an airy, ethereal nature. Every eye in the room carefully watches his fingers dance across the fretboard.
“I think one reason people are always gonna be interested in these type of shows is because it’s always gonna sound really good,” Plini says of the recent upsurge in interest towards progressive and instrumental music. “We’re all really big nerds so we care a lot about guitar tone and hiring sick sound guys. The fact that there’s no vocals I think leaves a lot of room for the sound engineer to make everything present. I was watching Animals in Australia a few weeks ago and standing next to Ronnie – the sound tech we have on this tour – and even during the densest, most high gain 8 string shit you could hear every ghost note on the snare. There’s a big attention to detail.”
It is that attention to detail – which includes the band bringing their own PA to the show – that makes their set sound so unbelievably pristine, even in one of Manchester’s more unconventional venues. It’s like listening to their studio work through expensive headphones, bolstered by the incomparable feel of a live band.
"We only have time for one more song,” his softly spoken voice tells the room, “but as there is no way for us to escape for a cheesy encore, so we actually have two songs left." An hour of super talented but ultimately refreshing and relaxing music had flown by.
The two supporting guitarists, David Maxim Micic and Disperse’s Jakub Żytecki then strolled onto the stage. With punters suddenly holding their phones aloft all around, little pockets of light now bursting into life and encircling the stage, they descended into a free-flowing jam. The chops on display, especially for a crowd predominantly populated by musicians, was beyond enviable. They reacted superbly to one another's playing, a friendly game of one-upmanship seeing the ante shift through the gears and with it, the broadening of every players smile.
At nearly nine minutes long the spiralling labyrinthine of Paper Moon made a fascinating and heart-warming final song. If you could bottle Plini’s ear for supple and sumptuous melodies, you’d earn a fortune.