Man Without Country at Cluny 2, Newcastle on 23rd February 2015

ManWithoutCountry_Foto-by-Robert-Bellamy-1

Imagine if The Pet Shop boys tried to tone it down for the modern day audience, one who may not accommodate so kindly the theatricality or shine of the 80’s electropop genre. Imagine if they took off the sunglasses, dressed uniformly in black and took the whole thing down a notch, to a much darker place? What you would be left with I imagine would sound rather a lot like Man Without Country. The welsh duo, made up of Ryan James and Tomas Greenhalf are joined by Mike Monaghan who provides stellar live drums and percussion that drives the heart of each Man Without Country song from the gigs start to finish.

Stepping off on a fairly confused foot (on my part), this gig was almost missed due to some internet mistranslations – who knew The Cluny could also be referred to as The Head of Steam. But thanks to a rather late kick off on the part of Man Without Country, not a beat was missed. And thank goodness for that.

Man Without Country exploded into their set with the full force of men with something to prove. Now onto their second LP Maximum Entropy and embarking on a full UK tour, the lads have perfected their minimalistic electronic style which harks back to scenes past but brings none of the cheese associated. The souring builds open up into catching beats that are fit only for the dance floor. The sheer force of the music making you wish you were stood in a packed out warehouse in Berlin, ready to dance the night away – rather in the somewhat reserved Cluny 2 with a crowd of around 8 middle aged men. It was hard not to feel like something of Man Without Country’s energy was going to waste playing in a space such as this. This performance deserved more of a return than bobbing heads and tentative applause but alas it was all this audience could provide.

The live sound of Man Without Country came as quite a shock, a much fuller, punchier sound was delivered due to the addition of a live drummer; an addition which acted to make each song stronger and more effective than their recorded counterparts. Their sound is awash with countless effects, however one or two of the special effects of the evening were almost impossible to ignore. The on stage lighting, which appeared to be connected to the beat, reflecting the raw heartbeat-esque urgency of the music, washed over the stage at points enhancing the rise and fall, but also left the entire stage drown in a darkness that was at times far too long to endure. Leaving the audience to stand in the pitch black and listen to the awkward thank you’s which echoed for the dark minutes between songs due to microphone effects.

One stand out moment of this performance – which although full of energy and atmosphere, by the end had reached a repetitiveness that grated slightly- was a reworked cover of The Beloved’s 1993 hit ‘Sweet Harmony’. A perfectly chosen cover that flowed in literal sweet harmony with the entirety of Man Without Country’s set as if it was written by the band themselves. The band have been successful in putting their own darker spin on what is quite an upbeat classic of the genre, even bringing in a saxophone for the real old school effect. This moment appeared a perfect unity of the old and new elements of Man Without Country’s style and intention.

Modernising their influences and enchanting their audience Man Without Country have the ability to create an atmosphere fit to fill dancefloors and stages much greater in the future. This minimalistic electronica builds tension to the very top until it explodes with a drop that oozes of 80’s influence. A romance of technology and the past which deserves greater recognition in a different space.

Reviewer: Dominique Daly

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