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Live Review & Gallery: Unknown Mortal Orchestra w/ Pink Matter @ The Tivoli – 15.09.2018

As a massive fan of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s 2015 album ‘Multi Love’, sporting favourites like Necessary Evil, Multi-Love and Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, I was very excited to be heading along on Saturday the 15th of September to see them play live at The Tivoli.

The supporting act, Pink Matter, warmed up the crowd as they filed into the venue, jockeying for positions among the upper balcony and front of stage. The neo-soul for-piece gave a captivating performance, filled with deeb urban bass lines and jazzy synth chords, backed by a technically brilliant drummer who kept the whole set in perfect time. The band was lead by a powerful performance from their lead singer Kerry Raywood who’s voice demanded the crowds affection and admiration. She sung about love and longing, independence and exploration and it was truly empowering to witness.

By 9.30pm, there were no cracks in the crowd to peer through as Unknown Mortal Orchestra walked on stage to a deafening chorus of excitement. The curation of their setlist was purposefully engaging. Beginning their set with From the Sun from the 2013 album ‘II’, a dark, leafy and ambient stage lifted Ruben’s voice into the crowd and kept shoulders swaying within each other. It wasn’t more than four minutes into the track that he suddenly jumped off the stage into the audience and began a screeching solo, blurring the line between performer and patron as he engaged the room. His bold move screamed “LETS DO THIS!!” as he ran into the moshpit to the back of the bar, up the stairs and finished the solo hanging over a railing on the top floor amongst the punters. Now he really had our attention.

The first half of the set was peppered with favourites from their first two albums like Swim and Sleep, So Good at Being in Trouble and Necessary Evil. This helped retain the crowds excitement as they promoted and interwove songs from their 2018 album, ‘Sex and Food’. Not that these songs couldn’t hold their own—they were filled with psychedelic guitar riffs, serenading vocals, driving bass lines and complex timings and chord progressions that could only have been pulled off by seasoned performers such as themselves. The new tunes, American Guilt and Major League Criminals, remained true to what we have come to expect from UMO and brought about moments of high-energy, glass-rattling, rock’n’roll. This helped to balance the audiences experience between more intimate, heartfelt songs like Ministry of Alienation and The Internet of Love (That Way).

Multi-Love was the crowd favourite by a landslide. As soon as the introduction began to be played, the backs of the more adventurous began to rise above the crowd as they scrambled onto the shoulders of others and began flailing their drink soaked arms with excitement. Honestly it is just such a good song, especially live with the energy of a sold out crowd singing along to the lyrics.

After a brief walk off stage to troll the audience and encourage one more song chants, the band returned finish off the set. The night ended on a high note with the funky Hunnybee from their new album and Can’t Keep Checking My Phone to cover off the last of the hits the crowd hoped to hear from their catalogue.

The real star of the show however was Ruben’s voice and energy. The dynamic range, sweetness and tonality of his voice is so unique and special that it really does elevate UMO to a world class standard. The front man’s voice was challenged however by the sometimes dominating raw-rock sound of his backline. His voice is a key element to UMO’s dreamy, psych-rock aesthetic, which is why they sound so fantastic on record. This provides it’s own challenges live though, as in some more instrumentally active songs it was hard to hear him sing. Audio levels aside, there is a reason the venue was sold out that night.

You can’t help but feel that on the album they kept their sound cleaner yet creative, but when allowed to lose themselves in the moment of a live performance, they tangent off into screaming distorted solos and instrumental sections, no longer restricted by a polished final product mentality. This was to the audience’s advantage, because within that space of true creative freedom and autonomy we were able to experience some of the most creative and private moments the band has to offer.

Written by Alex Israel

Photos by Ben Tevisuals