Messrs Chris Bainbridge and Mikey Reid are no strangers to a Glasgow crowd, and if the enthusiasm and general mood permeating The Hug and Pint on this particular Friday night is anything to go by, the Glasgow crowd are evidently at least somewhat familiar with the duo more commonly referred to as Man of Moon.
Providing the musical introduction to the evening, Marc Rooney (of Pronto Mama) fulfils his role as warm-up with incredible aplomb.
A tuner may have added to the fluidity of the performance, given the number of different tunings utilised, however, the scathing wit, infectious humour and palpable sincerity in his performance puts the audience both at ease and firmly on his side, in what must be one of the most pleasantly surprising and entertaining opening sets I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in recent memory.
Needless to say I feel I now more fully and profoundly comprehend what it means to “retire a boomerang tycoon”, and am all the better for it.
ULTRAS contribution is delivered rather more aggressively, taking us from Rooney’s whimsical storytelling with an acoustic guitar to utterly unapologetic iPad-infused rock tunes about Winston Churchill, extreme violence and hating the Conservative Party.
With controlled, almost militaristic precision ULTRAS’ set is an energetic affair that leaves the listener imagining a future dystopia, perhaps invoking a faint hint of Muse, albeit with the addition of cheesy matching t-shirts.
Man of Moon, the evening’s main attraction, is a band on the up-and-up-and-up.
Generally speaking it seems to be a mixture of public opinion, past exploits and industry whispering that constructs what is uncreatively albeit accurately referred to as a ‘buzz’ around a particular act, but what is always concrete in this unquantifiable metric is that with it comes the weight of expectation.
It’s encouraging then that while there is most certainly an undeniable buzz about Man of Moon, the expectation that accompanies said buzz doesn’t seem to be an issue.
In a tight 40-minute set filled with songs as hypnotically metronomic as they are fascinatingly unpredictable, Bainbridge and Reid deliver a measured, but accomplished live performance that reeks with confidence and possesses a visceral, brooding intensity that pushes the crowd into a head-bobbing trance only briefly interrupted by emphatic applause.
The intimacy of the setting only serves to amplify this and while there are rough edges in the performance, particularly around moments where the attention of certain audience members is lost during less engaging sections of the set, such issues are of little consequence.
The minimalist setup of ‘one guitar, one drummer’ is in vogue and comparisons will forever be drawn, but what Man of Moon have forged from that template is nothing short of a triumph.
Bainbridge’s voice is used sparingly, but chills and haunts in equal measure as it morphs between a sorrowful wail and a threatening growl; all while mesmerising, understated rhythms sit effortlessly alongside a deep, melodious guitar that immediately brings to mind a lyric borne of one of New Jersey’s favourite sons: “Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk.”
And talk it does.
If you ever wanted to see two old souls in youthful disguises turn some metal strings and a drum kit into a religious experience without breaking a sweat, Man of Moon won’t disappoint.
Words: Michael Mavor