Take a seminal dance album from an illusive Australian group, add a venue like Albert Hall and what do you get? An almighty gig of epic proportions, that’s what. This was one opportunity not to miss. Friday night saw The Avalanches in Manchester as part of their unexpected comeback tour. Until last year, they’d not released an album since debut masterpiece ‘Since I Left You’ back in 2000, an album heralded as one of the greatest Australian albums ever recorded. So last year out of nowhere they (finally) released follow up album ‘Wildflowers’. This time they used their talent for sampling to create a funkier, hip-hop influenced record.
All five members burst on stage twenty minutes late to a sweaty crowd (curiously including former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, who knew eh?) with a banger of an opening song in the shape of ‘Because I’m Me’. The bar was set high right then and there. New touring vocalists Oscar Vicente Slorach-Thro and Eliza Wolfgramm injected a whole new lease of life into the tracks, singing and free styling over the original sampled vocals. The group is known for pick and mixing fragments from old records to make one whole new track, so it was a relief to see and hear it worked live just as well as the recordings instead of just sounding like a tired old DJ set.
Drummer Paris Jeffree deserves a special mention; she belted the hell out of each track especially on crowd pleasers like ‘Frankie Sinatra’ and ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ (“that boy needs therapy” to you and me). The set list, like their records, was a none stop, tour de force blend of layered dance tracks that kept the audience engrossed throughout. Eliza’s vocals sounded worn out at times, but it didn’t seem to matter because her energy encapsulated each track and made up for it. ‘If I was a Folkstar’ is the chilled out vibe treat on the sophomore album; played live it beat the recording hands down. Eliza, dressed in a red, gold and green macramé dress topped off with a beret was the star of the night. Her presence on stage helped to elevate the purpose of the track into an energetic floor filler. The set was disappointingly just over an hour long. With two lengthy albums under their belt to play tracks from, I expected us to go right up to the curfew. But just like their output of recent years, they like to leave the crowd wanting more. ‘Since I Left You’, one of the greatest examples of sampling in music, was saved until last much to the crowds delight. The uplifting nature of the song with its beautifully layered melodies was great to witness live. Just next time guys make the show a bit longer yeah?
Words by Tom Frodsham. The Avalanches performed at at Albert Hall on Friday 23rd June, 2017.