Versaemerge - Manchester Academy 3
Don’t mention the ‘P’ word! I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it. While Hayley Williams and her former bandmates continue to snipe at each other after their pre-Christmas split, Sierra Kusterbeck (made up name, surely? - Ed.) and her colleagues set about quietly winning hearts and minds. Ignore the fact that their line-up travails (currently a three piece having lost two members through unresolved in-fighting) replicate the revolving door policy of their Fueled By Ramen labelmates.
Three years ago, when Paramore were taking baby steps towards world domination, they grabbed this building by the scruff of its neck and gave fair warning that that their sack of gold nugget tunes would brook no argument from the world’s charts and arenas. Led by a singer who, for once, could, they found themselves in an enviable position – holding onto the love of their scene-led fanbase while winning over the wider world. The Manchester Academies of the world disappeared in the rear view. But now there’s trouble at t’mill. Time for the second string to pounce ?
In town as support to the woeful Blink 182-by-numbers larceny of We The Kings, Versaemerge lay waste to claims that they are mere copyists. While the headliners marry teen-appropriate lyrics with generic riffola (and, with their demolition of Jimmy Eat World’s ‘The Middle’, the worst cover this building has seen since Ellie Goulding sucked the majesty out of Midlake’s ‘Roscoe’), Versaemerge reach for something altogether more blackly elegant. The serpentine nature of the songcraft doesn’t detract from the multitude of hooks. So whereas ‘Up There’ jets all over the shop, all stop starts and tempo changes, they temper their exploratory tendencies with a sharp eye for a killer chorus. The likes of ‘Fixed at Zero’ and ‘Past Praying For’ are irresistable. If you’re open minded enough to admit that ‘Call Me When You’re Sober’ and ‘Everybody’s Fool’ were actually, in hindsight, simply cracking pop songs, I’d call comparison with Evanesecence. But without that shouty knob in the background. There are EPs and an album (Fixed at Zero); all worth your time. A knowing nod for the performance, too, often ropey in fired-up bright young things. For once, even limited experience tells and Versaemerge make every second of their seven song set count. No arsing about between songs, no indulgent fiddling to drain the atmosphere and uncommon dexterity from tour drummer Chris, Devin on bass and Blake on guitar, keyboards and on-the-money backing vocals.
As they plough into the closing ‘Whisperer’, Sierra exhorts the heaving crowd to “go f***ing crazy – just f***ing destroy yourselves!” With the market leaders currently engaged in a war of words that even sees the Farro brothers questioning the lack of god-fearing quality in Hayley’s lyrics (“The truth never set me free, so I did it myself” on ‘Careful’ refutes the good book, apparently), Versaemerge are as potty-mouthed as they come. Thank heavens – oops – for small mercies. What was that about the devil and the best songs?