Allo Darlin' - Manchester Deaf Institute
A big hand to ever-striving promoter Hey Manchester, whose gift for assembling tasty bills of both emerging and established artists has been remarkable this year. As if the advertised line-up wasn't quality and quantity enough, a last minute addition of local act E Numbers seals the deal. Who are they? Where the hell they been? Honestly? Not a clue. A sneaky dig into that there 'social media' and suddenly you know their names, influences, favourite colours and GCSE results. But why pretend, eh? For once, here's how it went down: impossibly young looking five piece shuffle onto stage, play an impressively accomplished set that slips a rammed Deaf Institute into their collective inside pocket with nary a pause for breath. Singer has the look of a young Alan Davies. Drummer is funny as fuck with his laconic asides. One of the (two – excellent) keyboard players smiles throughout like all six of her numbers came up. To have this much fun, you gotta be fearless, for sure. They peddle a brand of guitar-y, keyboard-y pop that's snappy, playful and one step away from making itself sick on undiluted tune-age. In the mix, slivers of Talking Heads (but not as self-congratulatory or boring as Talking Heads, you understand), Saint Etienne, Stereolab. That's probably a million miles off. Just think: lo-fi but scaled up with a gallon of ambition and striving. Love 'em. You should, too.
"This is a song about not wanting to go skiing. Which in Norway is pretty controversial, as you can probably imagine…" Making Marks' singer Ola deadpans in English better than most English. Plus, he's called Ola. This is worthy of applause in itself. His band are a perfect fit for an Allo Darlin' support slot. Their breezy guitar pop references, however, not the Brit indie pop epoch of the late 80s but an altogether rootsier lineage. Caught 'blind', you’d clock them as part of the Americana scene: a hint of First Aid Kit, perhaps; i.e. Nordic reinvention rather than truly heritage. Whatever, they are undeniably lovely. Manchester dies a little inside for them. Two girls, two guys, they deliver lovingly seasoned harmonies and songs that map the back roads of love and loss with what sounds like a little too much experience. As they introduce their final number, Ola tells us that bass player Marie is going off to the Antarctic for a year at the end of the week. True or not, it’s a punchline fittingly bittersweet.
The headliners are in celebratory mood. Riding on the back of a universally besotted response to their third album We Come From the Same Place, Elizabeth Morris beams across a sea of smiling faces: "We've just been touring the States for a month, so I have to tell you, we've become pretty shit hot at playing these songs…" Good point, well made. Despite the lazy associations made in certain quarters still, Allo Darlin are as hard as fucking nails. Twee? Do you wanna say that to my (our) face? No-one manages to coax into words the mere microns that separate being in and out of love quite like Morris does. An increasingly compelling lyricist, she has a novelist's eye for detail: her best songs - toying with the illusion of memory, the dizzying cocktail of both travel and time - contain multitudes and read like novellas.
Tonight they're a song or two away from playing their new album in its entirety: smart move. No 'Angela' (boo), but beefy and spirited reworkings of 'Bright Eyes', 'History Lessons' and the knockout title track. They pepper the set with a handful of diamonds from albums one and two. Mid-set, the boys exit and Morris delivers a shattering 'Tallulah' – just voice and her beloved (and by now) signature ukulele. Hearts have been rubbed raw by that voice, all Aussie twang and warm breeze; a delivery so natural and unforced, she doesn’t so much sing as exhale: "And I wonder if you would wanna go there with me, when I'm finished over here / If you're not finished with me…" Ah. Dry your eyes, mate. More than ever, Allo Darlin' are here for your hearts. Offer them up gladly.