Concert Review: Tanner Merritt, Andy Hull, and Dustin Kensrue

April 22, 2015: The Loving Touch, Ferndale

I had figured that the odds of Andy Hull ever playing any Right Away, Great Captain songs live were just about slim to none. When he announced a solo tour with Thrice front man, Dustin Kensrue, I still didn’t want to get my hopes up just in case. And then I saw the announcement that he’d be boxing up the entire discography for his side project and I knew we’d be getting at least one or two tracks. Not that it would have stopped me from snatching up a ticket if he only played Manchester Orchestra tracks, it just sweetened the deal a bit.

I had no idea that Tanner Merritt of O’Brother would be joining the lineup as well. I don’t really listen to O’Brother on the regular but hearing Merritt’s solo stuff not only makes me want to go out and grab his album but I have the urge to go and give O’Brother another chance. Merritt’s voice recalls to mind OK Computer and Kid A era Thom Yorke specifically because of how much emotion he can pack into it. The Loving Touch is a great venue for hearing these intimate shows and Merritt’s voice filled the bar, almost completely drowning out everyone talking near the back. Hearing him play O’Brother’s “Easy Talk (Open Your Mouth)” may actually be my favorite moment from his short set. I’m very happy that Tanner Merritt was included in the lineup and hope that he continues to release emotionally charged music both with his band and on his own.

Andy Hull took the stage to raucous applause and shouts from the sold out audience and didn’t waste time, starting the night out with an untitled track that he wrote for his wife when they got married. It hasn’t been that long since I last saw Manchester Orchestra live, but something I forgot was how funny Andy Hull is. When a member of the crowd at the front told Hull that he and his wife had gotten engaged the last time they saw him play and were now expecting a baby, he said ‘you’re welcome’ and then prefaced his next track with ‘it’s a song about two kids dying in a fire, I probably could have planned that better…’. Andy covered a lot of great and many of my favorite songs across all of his projects which, as always, only makes a concert better. He didn’t play many Right Away, Great Captain songs, but he played my favorite, “I Was A Cage” so I was happy. We also got to hear some songs from his other side project with Kevin Devine, Bad Books, and while he didn’t play “Sleeper 1972”, we did get “Colly Springs” and “After the Scripture”. It may have been a very low energy set but honestly it could end up being one of, if not my favorite performance of 2015.

Dustin Kensrue released a new solo album, Carry the Fire, the day before our show so he spent most of his set playing new tracks from it. He spiced his set up with some soulful harmonica which added even more emotion to his powerhouse vocals. I particularly loved “Gallows” and “There’s Something Dark” which reminds me that I actually need to go listen to his solo albums properly. Of course he also busted out some Thrice tracks which made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve listened to anything from the band. As much as I loved hearing Kensrue’s personal tracks, I really loved hearing him cover The Weakerthans (“My Favorite Chords”) and Lorde (“Buzzcut Season”). Kind of makes me wish he’d do a cover album, bet he could really kill Radiohead’s “Creep”.

It really was a great night, the venue was perfect for the intimate show. I think I got chills at least once during each set because these guys have some killer vocals that can really pack an emotional punch.