MONEY’S music has been described as ‘truly amazing’, ‘halfway between the euphoria of Wu Lyf and the epic magic of Grizzly Bear’ (No I haven’t never heard of them either), like a ‘quasi-religious fervour’ and even at times ‘not quite the full Holocaust’ - this before they have even released an album. The aforementioned reviews are intriguingly eclectic yet they don’t sound half as bizarre as the Manchester based quintet’s musings on life, death and everything else ominous in between.
Lee’s confidence at such an early stage in his career is outstanding as he bounded into the crowd, guitar and microphone in tow,
Enigmatic, intellectual frontman Jamie Lee sounds closer to Voltaire than any of his musical contemporaries when recently interviewed. Thrusting such notions as Manchester being a city where “people are symbolically dead”, asking “What would you say is at the very bottom of yourself?” and comparing MONEY to Van Gogh as both “represent the static values of mainstream society”. Sure, sure.
Whether what Lee says is regarded as a load of pretentious rubbish or confirms his status as this generation’s great thinker is irrelevant, its MONEY’s music the band will be judged on. Luckily it’s nothing short of brilliant.
Over the last couple of years MONEY, or Youth and Meke Menete as they were previously known, have gathered a cult underground following in Manchester through a combination of mysterious gigs, notably in churches and a dilapidated factory near Strangeways Prison, and a distinctive brand of haunting music.
Their performances at the Pavilion Theatre, as part of MIF, is the first time the band have taken to a traditional tour and venue, a fine time to announce themselves to the world.
After an extremely bizarre introduction by a leopard print clad transvestite, named Morgan Spice, MONEY’s talisman Lee entered through the crowd bellowing a verse that could easily have been either from the Bible, Dante’s Inferno, or even one of their songs. Sporting a Friar Tuck haircut Lee strode through the sweltering heat of the venue, stopping to interact with the bemused audience, most notably inexplicably kissing one man, luckily he seemed keen to oblige.
When he finally reached the stage, Lee had the people’s full attention, his dramatic and bold entrance leaving them captivated. Playing through their debut album they opened with the brooding So Long (God is Dead) – a track indicative of their entire musical approach, painfully sad but beautifully composed as a swirling, dream like anthem. Scepticism about whether their music would capsulate its majesty live were laid to rest instantly with Lee’s ethereal voice, reminiscent of a godly, choir like vigil echoing round the room.
While MONEY’s music is something impressively different it was Lee who was the most memorable part of the night. Already possessing a magnetic stage presence, he manages to be something completely fresh while encompassing elements of other great frontmen. Lee has more than a hint of Morrissey in his yelps, dancing and transcendent qualities while also exuding the swagger of a Pete Doherty, people’s-champion type. Yet still Lee is his own man, breaking out of being pigeon-holed he contains all the right qualities to become a star.
His other great attribute is to juggle the deadly serious gravity of MONEY’s music with a playful approach, stopping the sombre tones from driving the audience into terminal sadness. His crowd interactions matched with his mischievous charm are the perfect foil for heavy tracks like Bluebell Fields or Cold Water. Sharing his red wine amongst the front rows and passing out his guitar for the audience to have a go further championed his approval in the Pavilion Theatre.
Lee’s confidence at such an early stage in his career is outstanding as he bounded into the crowd, guitar and microphone in tow, to perform Shadow of Heaven. A piano accompaniment only rendition of Goodbye London in the heart of the audience was a standout moment - you would be hard pushed to find a track that resonates so deeply, MONEY’s ability to emotionally challenge its listener is what drives their success.
The set lasted just under an hour but that seemed the perfect length of time. On first listen, which it was for most there, MONEY’s music, while powerful, can blend into one churning crescendo of emotion after a while, meaning a set longer than an hour would likely be overkill for such an intense show. For the finale Lee once again hopped onto the floor to perform, giving another poignant vocal recital, before mysteriously fading away as anonymously as he arrived.
After garnering a harmony of rave reviews on the underground circuit it was time to see if they could replicate their talents on the main stage and live up to their billing as Manchester’s next big band.
Undoubtedly those who saw MONEY, and importantly the superb Jamie Lee, in action for the first time will have left emotionally drained, awestruck and unfaltering in their belief that they are something special.
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