Metronomy @ Manning Bar (05/01/2012)

With their fourth visit in as many years, Metronomy continue to indulge us with the regularity of an All Bran commercial. This time though, the Mercury nominated The English Riviera has been on repeat for quite some time, its mighty ear worms burrowing and appearing on many ‘end of year’ lists. And now it was Sydney’s turn to savour the offerings of 2011’s favourite dance-pop Brits.

Opening the night was the lo-fi, white-boy-R&B act Oscar + Martin, whose stylings met with mixed response. O+M make me feel like I have split personality disorder; in one ear I’m getting some interesting, playfully grooved-out melody and in the other I’m getting innocuous, samey, dribble. Maybe that ear’s blocked. The makeshift milk crate stands and timid dance moves are endearing enough, but, at times the mega-basic beats and the borderline-simplistic lyrics were a bore. And don’t get me started on the indie love affair with the floor tom. In saying all of that, there was some smokin’ hot calibre in their set. Lead singer Oscar Slorach-Thorn has a masterful falsetto and tracks like What I Know forced you to pay attention, even with the absence of vocalist Bec Rigby.

A quickly filling Manning Bar is just one sign Metronomy’s burgeoning popularity. Another is the raucous applause they get upon entering (drummer Anna Prior’s green, sequinned jumpsuit is the highlight of the night/year-so-far. Mind blowing). Mirroring their latest album, they open with We Broke Free, but it’s a bigger, louder, hungrier beast than what we’re familiar with. And it rips us all to shreds. It takes a couple of songs for the audience to acclimatise to the bulging pop muscle being flexed in our face.

Back on the Motorway and Holiday prompt fits of rapturous recollection, as the crowd simultaneously remembers how incredible Nights Out was/is/forever will be. It all comes thick and fast – there’s shy little hand dancing and a sax solo from Oscar Cash, Gbenga Adelekan doing his patented ‘effortless cool’ thing, and Joseph Mount, looking ever more comfortable as a frontman. You could be forgiven for missing chunks of stage-antics though, as the audience is constantly forgoing observation in favour of boogyin’ on down.

The sultry She Wants was next, and damn it was good. We were drunk enough on the quality of the song, let alone Gbenga’s intoxicating bass lines. The dirty, tumbling riff of You Could Easily Have Me had some diehards losing all sense of self-respect; the only Pip Paine track, it was a surprising inclusion, but its spooky synth and killer beats went down a treat.

Another instrumental, The End of You Too followed and prompted a contest between crowd and band; every time they turned it up a notch, the audience would dance harder, and Metronomy would turn it up further and we’d cut shapes and angles yet to be invented, so they’d turn it up to 11 and we’d lose all control of our bodily functions. Little did we know, Metronomy are a band of infinite notches.

Joseph sheepishly pulled out an acoustic guitar for Some Written, and because of the traditional association between acoustic guitars and ‘twats’ (his words, not mine), he had us boo him. A personal favourite, Heartbreaker, had us all fawning over Gbenga again. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one taking a mental note to go home and learn bass.

Joseph let slip that their previous tour was for road-testing new material, and then apologised if it inferred that Australian shows are the warm-up practice games before the real thing. It kind of does, but rather than take offence, we’re stoked to hear it before anyone else. The delicate tinkling of The Bay followed, prefaced by an apology for forgetting to play it last time round. A real standout of the night, this one had it all. Ultra tight, superb sound and a huge response from the crowd – it felt very right to be singing “it feels so goooooooood”.

The bizzaro-fun-mish-mash A Thing For Me was another Nights Out secret weapon. My friends said it was the only disappointment of the night, with the sound and pace being off; I think I was dancing too much to notice. The last time The Look was played in Sydney, it was introduced as ‘another new song’. This time, no introduction was necessary. One of the biggest cheers of the night, the perfectly restrained melody and steady build was utterly fantastic. Next Anna got a turn on the mic, with Everything Goes My Way closing the set.

An encore of Radio Ladio was inevitable, but the surprising little treat of On Dancefloors came first. It’s a strange number that fits in with the rest of the set, but is remarkably different as well – it’s gentle and soft at first, but before long, a shrill synth line cuts in both uneasy and trance-inducing. Mount’s delivery contained just the right amount of feeling, as well.

When you think about it, Radio Ladio is a pretty defiantly odd number. Ridiculous synths, childish chants, unconventional everything; it’s just weird. But it’s inexplicably so so so much fun. The lights mounted on the band-members’ chests that had been flickering and pulsing throughout the show, came into their own for the closer. We all bellowed ‘R-A-D-I-O-L-A-D-I-O’, some spelt it with their bodies. It was a fitting end; playful, strange and genius.