“We Love You!”
Merrill Garbus, AKA tUnE-yArDs, smiles as she tunes her ukelele, visibly touched by the generous yelp.
“And I love you…already”
The room is sold out to bursting, and warm. Garbus is dressed in feather arm bands and face paint, and so are some of the audience. This is the most love I have ever felt in Manchester’s The Deaf Institute, and that’s saying something.
Since arriving at 8pm sharp, we have witnessed a clumsy but brilliant set from Manchester’s own Magic Arm and a trippy little performance from tour support, Thousands, who sound like the slightly free-jazz re-incarnation of Simon and Garfunkel. ( I make a note to buy their album and fall asleep in the garden to it).
‘The Sound Of Everything’ by Thousands
But now the realisation of what we are about to witness hits us all. The tribal, powerful but affectionate songs of tUnE-yArDs are about to be performed and it seems unimaginable. Her stunning dictophone recorded debut BiRd-BrAiNs and her recent studio masterpiece, W h o k i l l, have clearly captured the hearts and imaginations of everyone in the room and we can’t wait to see her loop, beat and scream her dancey anthems right in our faces.
You Yes You opens the set, and we get to witness Garbus’ skill and style first hand as she builds her first drum loop of the evening, holding her microphone close to the skins to record her samples; it’s amazing to watch. In the meantime, Garbus has been joined onstage by two suitably face painted sax players and her bass playing BF Nate Brenner, and when Mr. Brenner’s bass line drops on this opeing track, the room melts into a throbbing sea of happy, happy people.
tUnE-yArDs performs Real Live Flesh for the 4ad Sessions
The next hour is one huge love in. The audience scream with adoration after each pounding song, participating whenever they are invited to, dancing and singing along as Garbus’ infectious smile says it all, ‘this is a great night for everyone involved’.
Mid-set, Garbus takes a moment to humbly thank everyone for selling the place out. After checking if any of the five people at her last Manchester show were present (they weren’t) she declares
“it’s lovely to see progress like that” thanking Marc Riley in the process for playing her records. Marc is tucked away by the stage, grinning like the rest of us.
Every song has its place in this eclectic but balanced set. We hear Hitari from her first record spill into the heavy beat of Gangsta from the new. We are gently brought down to the flowing dischords of Riotriot and then led hazily into the sexy groove of Real Live Flesh…It’s flawless. Bass man Brenner is playing synths and glass bottles while the afore mentioned sax players have grabbed pan lids and baking trays and are beating them to the beat of Garbus’ punctuated screams and yodels. However, it is the unforgettable Powa that really draws the crowd into Garbus and Brenner’s world as we all bounce in slow motion to the rhythmic and heartbreakingly catchy ukelele riff.
As the night draws to a close, her crowd favourite Bizness drops and we may as well have dropped a couple of Prozacs in our ‘Trof Lagers’ as the atmosphere turns to liquid. Please don’t end!
Music video fro Bizness by tUnE-yArDs
Shows like this are a rarity, and so is an artist like tUnE-yArDs. For someone to receive such a warm and enthusiastic response on a Monday night in Manchester speaks volumes. Merrill Garbus and her tUnE-yArDs project are going to be alarmingly big. Please catch them at a small, Prozac fueled orgy as soon as you can.
WORDS by Sam Alder
Great interview and performance with Merrill Garbus here at the fantastic Yours Truly!