Brighton quintet, Squid played Manchester’s award winning performance-space Stoller Hall in June for their experimental Socially Distanced Fieldworks tour. They returned to Manchester once again on Friday to play a warm and eager packed out Albert Hall.
The anticipation was exacerbated by the band’s elongated stage entrance backdropped by dimmed lights and in-decipherable static murmurings. As the initial crowd stirring subsided, the band promptly filled the linear stage set up and acknowledged the beauty of the Grade II Listed venue they were gracing. They then leapt straight into opener “Sludge” with vivacity and guile, the boisterous crowd obliged willingly to start the party.
Despite its more measured passages, clear fan favourite “GSK” maintained the intensity and gave us our first glimpse of debut album ”Bright Green Field”, of which made up the majority of the live set. The set’s natural narrative arch then took a more contemplative dive into some of less immediate cuts from Bright Green Field. Whilst not commanding the same amount of energy, the likes of “Peel Street” and “Global Groove” were vastly appreciated by a hugely invested audience.
Throughout, Squid didn’t rush a single note. Not only have they decided to change the setlist for each and every gig on the tour. They have clearly made the conscious decision to play fewer songs, but to squeeze every ounce of value out of each track through experimentation and improvisation. This variation helps keep both the band and audience engaged throughout, without overstepping the fine line of over-indulgence.
The tempo was lifted with pre-album thronkers “The Cleaner” and “Houseplants”, which both sounded fuller and more visceral than what was possible to achieve on record. This passage of the set culminated in a highlight rendition of debut album lead single “Narrator”. All 8 minutes of this math rock influenced goliath was purely captivating. Even without the distinctive vocal performance of Martha Skye Murphy, this track felt like it was written largely with live performance in mind. Each transition culminated in building an intangible ball of energy that gets bigger and bigger, until it bursts into a chasm of noise and friction leaving everyone in room breathless and awestruck. When it ends, it’s just one of those moments where all you can do is turn to your mates, purse your lips and nod.
Squid’s encore began with a performance of the comforting yet avant-garde album track “Documentary Filmmaker”, before closing with buoyant and elaborate album closer “Pamphlets”, which was a more than fitting close to an outstanding evening of live music. Squid’s taut musicianship and spontaneity, along with their appreciative and endearing nature, connect you with the band’s live performance in a very special way indeed.
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