Lush: Manchester Academy – live review

Lush © Melanie Smith

Lush | Brix & the Extricated
Manchester Academy 1
Nov 25th 2016

As Lush took to the stage at Manchester Academy and hung up their instruments for the final time, it really did feel like a spectacular curtain call for a band who are still celebrated (though not by their own admission) as the seminal Shoe-gazers of their era. For fans of Lush, it may have seemed unusual if not slightly dis-heartening that the band had decided to end such a long-awaited comeback in Manchester rather than London, but front-women Emma Anderson and Miki Berenyi have never been a pair that adhere to expectation. Abi Small (words) and Melanie Smith (photos) went along to capture the final performance ever from Lush.

Brix & the Extricated © Melanie SmithBrix Smith-Start’s aptly named new outfit, ‘Brix & The Extricated’, which consists almost exclusively of ex-members of The Fall including the Hanley brothers and Steve Trafford, as well as guitarist Jason Brown, provided support on the night and were perfectly at home in Manchester. Playing a mixed set which saw Fall classics ‘Totally Wired’ and ‘Big New Prinz’, receiving as fervent a reception as the band’s brand new tracks, it seemed that little had changed since the late 1980’s with the effortless symbiosis of the Hanley brothers perfectly complementing Brix’s venom-barbed vocals as the raw energy of the performance prepared the audience for the main event.

Opening with ‘De-Luxe’, It was immediately clear that Lush hadn’t lost their essence, as the ethereal vocal melodies and delightfully transient guitars that typified the band’s early career reverberated through the venue as though the sound waves themselves were transporting the crowd back to 1990. From the outset, the atmosphere was saturated with nostalgic longings and Manchester Academy took on an almost ecclesiastical significance as fans congregated to eulogize Lush- a band who exemplified the sound of Shoegaze for so many. Despite Lush’s fierce refutal of the term for most of their career, Miki herself announced that although ‘Shoegaze used to be synonymous for wanker, we’ve reclaimed it!’, to the sound of rapturous cheers and applause from the crowd; despite the etymological resonances of the term, all eyes were firmly fixed on the band. The spirit of reclamation seemed to encapsulate the evening perfectly, as Lush’s reunion has not been a woeful lament of times gone by, but a spectacular re-birth as old and new tracks blended seamlessly together, with the dreamy transcendence of ‘Out of Control’ from the new EP ‘Blind Spot’ sounding fresh, yet firmly rooted in Lush’s distinctively nebulous sound.

Lush © Melanie Smith

Aside from the new record, there was no escaping the fact that other things had inevitably changed in the twenty years since Lush’s departure from the world of music; there was no red hair in sight, Elastica’s Justin Welch had taken on drumming duties in a gesture of friendship to the the late Chris Acland and Modern English’s Michael Conroy stood in for Phil King who had decided to bow out of the tour early. Miki Berenyi noted the change in lineup as she playfully jibed, ‘you might have noticed Phil’s got shorter, and blonder, and better at playing the bass…sorry!’, and the insistence of Conroy’ s bass throughout the set only added to the quality of Lush’s live sound

In a set that paid tribute to the entire span of Lush’s career, despite the changes that have taken place both within the microcosm of the band itself and in the wider world of the music industry, they delivered a supremely otherworldly performance, finishing with a double encore that ended with ‘Monochrome’, the final track from their 1992 album Spooky. Though Lush saw their musical fate sealed by a bittersweet tragedy that stole not only their friend and drummer Chris Acland, but also the opportunity to close the curtain on their colourful career, Lush’s last ever gig presented itself as a chance to wave an emotional, yet exultant goodbye to a band who still mean so much, to so many.

Photo gallery:

Please note: Use of these images in any form without permission is illegal. If you wish to use /purchase or license any images please contact mel@mudkissphotography.co.uk

Lush can be found at their website and Facebook.
Brix & the Extricated can be found at Facebook and Twitter.

All words by Abi Small. This is Abi’s first piece for Louder Than War.

Photos by Melanie Smith. More work by Mel on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Photography portfolio can be found here

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15 comments on “Lush: Manchester Academy – live review”

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  1. It was an absolutely fantastic one and a half hours of wired and wonderful musical bliss ,well -conveyed in this review ,though not sadly through some of the bootleg recordings that have appeared on youtube !! Let’s hope someone releases a decent recording of the event from the mixing desk .It was indeed an almost religious experience ! Lush -you were M-A-G-N-I-F-I-C-E-N-T !! And well done Abi – excellent start to your life as a LTW contributor !

  2. Errata : the Hanley brothers were not in attendance, I was with Paul at his wife’s 50th in Didsbury so they had replacement.

    Looking forward to seeing them supporting the Membranes in 2017 having seen them rocking
    Manchester Night & Day to the rafters before.

    Cheers!

  3. Stephen was playing bass as you can see in the background of one of my photos.

  4. Great review. Great piece of writing. Good to see new names reviewing gigs instead of the same smug and dusty old men.

    • Katrina – the reviews of Lush at Oslo and The Roundhouse earlier this year were written by me, what was “smug and dusty” about what I wrote? I’ve been a huge fan of theirs since the early 90s and seeing them again was like a dream come true for me and many others and I tried to express that enthusiasm and excitement at seeing one of my all-time favourite bands again in my (unpaid) writing. Or maybe your comment is a ‘joke’ like what Miki said about Phil?

      • And as for being “old” – I’m 60 and proud of it next February – if I make it to there. I haven’t stopped loving music, I feel as much love for it as I did when I was a teenager.. and maybe you will too when your time to be as old as I am comes around.. ?

  5. Was a good gig – worth the horrible 12 hour round trip in freezing fog to be there.

    Incidentally their last gig would have been in Portland of all places if this concert had not been postponed from April.

    Still nice to have been there at the last one I suppose. Bit of a shame considering their recent EP showed they still had it.

  6. Must have been at a different gig. I’m not a big fan, first time I’ve seen them, but there was such a strange atmosphere (understandably), it was like watching 4 strangers playing, barely any interaction between any of the band.
    I’m not sure if Phil, the old bass player, took that joke too well if twitter is anything to go by.

  7. Great review. I second the earlier comment, nice to have new people reviewing! I’ll miss Lush, wish I could of been at the gig myself.

  8. Great first review. look forward to more of your writing

  9. Really strong first review, keep them coming!

  10. Good piece, Abi. Your enthusiasm shines through!

  11. Mick Conroy *did* play the bass extraordinarily well; and some songs sounded the best I’d ever heard Lush play them. It was sweet to be able to see them one last time and bid them farewell, whatever the circumstances.

  12. I wasn’t at this gig, but after reading your Pete Doherty review I must say your enthusiasm shines through, keep up the hard work I look forward to seeing more of your reviews.

  13. I saw this performance on YouTube, and I must agree that Michael Convey made a difference in making Lush sound even more awesome! I’m still a bit upset with Phil’s early exit..But anyhow this awesome band will be missed. In a perfect world this band would have sold 100 million records, becouse that’s just how dam good their songs were.

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