This subterranean venue was once an air-raid shelter – hosting vulnerable citizens as they listened helplessly to the whirring of bombs. Tonight’s aural assault is equally deafening. Shrieks of feedback, body-shaking bass, and thunderous blasts from the drums, echo within the cavernous red-brick arches. Leader of the attack, Faris Badwan, lunges towards the crowd, front-foot planted on the monitor, with a microphone stand in hand. He glares into an army of ardent fans whose arms are outstretched. The red leather jacket clinging to his ectomorphic frame gives him the air of a revolutionary in action.
The masses have certainly begun to side with The Horrors’ unlikely success. Third album, Skying, elevated the group to the fringes of mainstream accreditation despite beginning life as a feigned-Goth outfit. The primitive rebellion of punk debut, Strange House, is banished almost completely here in Manchester – but no degree of intensity is lost. A slower tempo captivates instead, as a site synonymous with DJ culture is treated to a near-dance-experience. Melodious synth hooks flow in waves, while futilitarian lyrics maintain a dark undercurrent.
Behind the stage an enormous LED screen emits an array of psychedelic colours, befittingly illustrating the textures at play in opener, Changing The Rain. The party atmosphere continues with Moving Further Away. Bassist, Rhys Webb shakes three maracas while those below clearly enjoy the sensory journey. You Said becomes a moment of respite. Badwan hunches over the mic-stand before delivering his breathy vocals in what feels like a soothing club-night comedown. The recorded six-piece brass section floats perfectly with swirling keys for an uplifting mid-set peak.
There’s still abundant raucous passion on display. Badwan shakes every syllable out of the stand while performing Three Decades – taking his skin-tight jacket off in the process. He means business as Mirror’s Image reaches its climax too, yelping “walk on into the night”, while punching the air and roaming a capacious stage. Skying and its predecessor are amalgamated, fitting well together. The most effective mixture of pace comes from Endless Blue, which lulls the crowd with a tranquil brass arrangement. The band stand silhouetted in front a white beam from the LED display before crashing guitar fuzz relieves building tension.
How The Horrors will develop in future remains to be seen. The modus operandi itself is laughable given the nature of this set – a churlish name for a petulant child, not that of a maturing band with a growing pop inclination. Just how much of their original anarchic spirit will survive in the face of ambition is anyone’s guess. What’s clear tonight, however, is their uncompromising talent.
Words: Simon Butcher
Photography: Magnus Aske Blikeng