Stornoway @ Manchester Academy
Travelling back to Manchester the weekend of the Lime Street Station close was well worth the hassle to see this one of a kind Brit indie folk band for the last time. I first discovered Stornoway with my Dad a few years ago, but only recently got the opportunity to see them live, which is bittersweet as the band decided they would be splitting in October 2016 after the Farewell Tour this spring.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at Manchester Academy was the diversity in age among the crowd, a visual representation of how widely appealing Stornoway‘s music really is. After a crowd warm up from Canadian band Brasstronaut, we were momentarily distracted by a projected reel of photos and memories of the band’s time together. Then Stornoway took to the stage with their opening number ‘Between the Saltmarsh and the Sea’ from their most recent album Bonxie and ‘You Take Me As I am‘ from Tales of Terra Firma. The crowd gave a warm reception as the band wrapped up their introductory numbers and began to tell us how they’ve been trying a different delicacy from each of their stops on the tour. Greggs and chip buttys for Manchester, of course.
For me, the next part was my favourite of the whole gig and quite truthfully an aspect that made this one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. Front man Brian Briggs announced that they were going to play a few unplugged versions of their songs, prompting waves of shushes between crowd members until it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Brian, alone, performed a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘November Song’, before being joined on the stage by Jonathan Ouin and brothers Oli and Rob Steadman to perform unplugged versions of ‘Get Low’ and ‘Josephine’. It really highlighted the raw talent that each of the boys possess and made me feel a tinge of sadness knowing this would be the last time I would hear the group live.
The rest of the gig was abundant with great songs from all of their albums such as ‘Farewell Appalachia,’ ‘I Saw You Blink,’ ‘Watching Birds,’ and one of my personal favourites ‘Love Song of the Beta Male’. You could not fault their enthusiasm nor their interaction with the audience. But possibly the most noticeable thing when watching them perform live was their blatant and sheer love for music and moving people with their lyrics.
The worst part about seeing such a fantastic band live is knowing that it has to come to an end at some point. Although there were so many other songs we would have all liked to have heard one last time, Stornoway provided an incredibly memorable farewell with their final performances to Manchester – ‘We are the Battery Human’ and ‘The Great Procrastinator’. The band ended their encore with a firm crowd favourite and the first song my Dad and I ever heard; ‘Zorbing’.
Stornoway are a band whom provide depth and feeling in their songs, something sometimes absent in other music today. They are a band that I believe deserved more fame and recognition than they earned in their 10 years together but that is perhaps what kept their gigs so intimate and special. Although the chance to see Stornoway live is now over, their music, like any great artist, will remain and I’d recommend you give any of their incredible albums a listen, but to start here’s a link to one of their first songs, ‘Zorbing’.