The first time I saw MONEY, frontman Jamie Lee serenaded the audience resulting in a lot of saliva splashing my face. The second time, he cradled a wine bottle reciting a poem and ode to the drink before downing it with impressive speed. As a result, I have become accustomed to quite the performance and yet, following a couple of difficult years for the band, with frontman Jamie Lee’s confrontation with alcohol dependency, the second record really reflects a change in tone. Gone are the raucous and drunken escapades and instead we are given an orchestral evening of beautifully angelic choral pleasure.
Support came from fellow Mancunians Bernard + Edith, an electronically grounded duo that reflect far eastern influences – the Chinese dragon top of frontwoman Greta Carroll a clear allusion to the oriental presence – with Nick Delap providing the basslines the duo were to encapsulate us in a tantric of delights. Carroll’s vocal range was truly impressive, as her Bjork style melodies tipped up and down like a mountain range and set against Delap’s cymbal, softer wind-like backbeats only to crash into a cacophony of bassier, pulsating beats – you truly were exposed to all the elements. She floated on stage, crooning the lyrics with ease as they played some new songs as well as the popular ‘Heartache’ and ‘Crocodile’ from the album Jem. Finishing with ‘Poppy’ an eerie layered track of club-beats mixed with temple bells, Bernard + Edith had the audience edged to the front by the end of their set, their trippy beats and Grimes style vocals having won us all over.
Jamie Lee took to the stage armed with an acoustic guitar and sang a poetic ballad about a lonely London lady. As fellow band members, joined by a cellist and violinist, approached the stage it seemed a misplaced guitar would have Jamie Lee explain how the journey of recovery can be difficult when trying to fill the awkward stage silences – followed by questioning from an audience member who Jamie Lee later remembered had bought many a whiskey for the band at past shows. Despite the slow start, MONEY went straight to playing the lead track off the new record Suicide Songs ‘You look like a sad painting on both sides’ a poetic and moving ode full of Lee’s recognisable crescendo’s and falsettos. This was followed by ‘I’ll be the Night’ a track that highlights a sincere musical arrangement, the composition of violin, cello, drum and guitar complementing each other perfectly.
The maturity of MONEY as a tight-knit band was demonstrated on stage as they played with such power and self-assuredness without needing to rely on a cocky bravado to keep attention – the music truly did the talking. The new record is refreshing, as the silences and single-instrument echoes between instrumentation reveals the potency of the tracks. A clear belief and faith in the musical compositions and textured harmonics alongside heartfelt lyrical ingenuity is all the validation MONEY needs as they tease the audience through a dystopian eulogy impelling you to tears – of joy or sadness you cannot quite ascertain. The life, colour and spectacle of the songs are played out on the live stage as a moment of poetry with sonic accompaniment. We were all gripped particularly by first album classic’s ‘Shadow of Heaven’ and ‘Bluebell Fields’ both dreamy hazes that resonated an awe among the audience.
The minimalist and emotional quality of the gig was so impressive that it is hard to find the words to really capture the unified experience we – the audience – enjoyed. As MONEY finished with the nihilistic ‘A Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic’s New Year’ a beautiful moment where Jamie Lee nodded towards an older gentleman standing next to me summed up the whole mood of the show – a knowledge that no matter our differences, humanity is universal in its ability to feel and, for us that night, the united in our privilege of having experienced Suicide Songs emotional narrative.