How did a band that play ambient, soft, instrumental rock music punctuated with 20th century public service messages and film samples end up filling a venue the size of Manchester Academy? There is no logical answer to this, there have not been any hits and there is no obvious mainstream appeal to their music. But here they are, on a very windy night in Manchester. The stage set is quite expansive for this size of venue, with a pair of huge wheels that look like they were in a factory in the industrial revolution flanking the stage and four large screens, two behind the band and two on either side of the stage.
With music like this, it would be very easy for an hour and a half live show to get boring but you could never describe this as monotonous. Across songs like Spitfire, Progress and Go!, a wide variety of dynamics are on show, emphasized with the occasional addition of a three piece horn section. All the while the screens provide a backdrop of inventions and news prints that while being interesting and supporting the musical canvas, never overpower it. The excellent light show also treads this same line with strobes and lasers being deployed expertly. There is also good humour present as we are hit between songs with a barrage of daft sound clips queued in from the keyboard.
They close with a magnificent encore that begins with Gagarin, definitely marking the first time I have ever seen a band dedicate a song to the first man in space and also the first time I have seen a band with dancing astronauts. After this extravaganza, you could be forgiven for thinking they were making a mistake by playing another song after this to finish, but the epic soundscape of Everest proves the perfect come down from the party of Gagarin. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable show.