Words by Kristofer Thomas.
The best thing about a great voice is that it never truly fades, and I mean this in two ways.
The distinctive voice of Miracle Legion has survived 30 years, during which they’ve seen an extended hiatus, line-up changes, legal problems and a catalogue of the various trials and tribulations that comprise band folklore, all with its charming tones still intact. Likewise, this also applies in a literal sense, with frontman Mark Mulcahy’s vocals remaining still as polished and integral to the band’s idiosyncratic sound as it was all those years ago.
Traces of Miracle Legion’s sound can be found in all facets of contemporary indie guitar rock, whether the artists themselves are aware of it or not. Thom Yorke has cited the band as a major influence, the best bits of REM are a regular point of comparison, and Frank Black, Mercury Rev and Dinosaur Jr have all been known to perform covers.
So 30 years since their last UK tour, at a time when both the NME and Melody Maker fawned endlessly over the band’s jangle-laden college rock, they now return, and are greeted by fans that never really forgot, despite their inactivity, their fading presence in the online world, and the devoted but dwindling cult of alter egos Polaris.
It’s rare to see a band enjoy themselves so much during the era of fashionable cynicism, but tonight Miracle Legion are all smiles. At points, Mulcahy and co-founder guitarist Ray Neal seem genuinely surprised by the loving reception both their deep classic cuts and newer tracks receive, and through their energy, obvious passion and accrued experience combined, the gig altogether avoids cheap nostalgia, and becomes something much more rewarding and outright enjoyable.
Bookending the set with fan favourites ‘Country Boy’ and ‘All for the Best’, Miracle Legion take the crowd on a guided tour of a stunning discography, before ending on a stirring rendition of the Dr John Cooper Clarke piece ‘A Heart Disease Called Love’, sending us out into the night with ear to ear grins, sweating profusely, and instilled with the same joy we experienced upon first hearing the band.
The best thing about a great voice is that it never truly fades, and Miracle Legion is still as relevant, still as brilliant, and still as criminally underrated as they always were, so much so that it’s like they never even left the room.
The gig took place at Deaf Institute on Thursday 18 August, 2016, and was promoted by Hey! Manchester.