AS with all Manchester International Festivals, there’s always a good deal of the bizarre. So maybe there was a sense of relief that a certain level of normality was on show as Manchester’s musical history was explored, courtesy of Radio One’s pony tailed, quirky talisman Rob Da Bank (RDB) and veteran Mancunian music photographer Kevin Cummins.
Enthusiasm fluctuated between tracks with the biggest cheers predictably coming for the full seven minutes of ‘Blue Monday’ and an extended Smiths medley inducing a ‘This Charming Man’ sing-along.
With an A-Z approach through each decade, DJ RBD is part way through a series of shows exploring the different decades of Manchester music. Meanwhile as RDB spins everything from A Certain Ratio to erm…Zee Stone Roses, Cummins provides an accompanying slide show of not just his recognisable photos but also rare vinyls, retro ticket stubs and classic album artwork.
Despite a winning combination on paper there was a lacklustre ambiance and a stilted mood at last Saturday’s eighties A-Z. With little prior indication as to whether the event would be a more formal, sedate event or a frantic rave on Hacienda scenario most attendees entered the glorified tent that is the Pavilion Theatre with a certain amount of trepidation. The interior was decorated only by a selection of notable eighties vinyls hidden away in the corner- New Order’s Technique and The Smith’s I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish the only ones that could be made out behind Rob Da Bank’s flowing locks.
A mammoth screen took centre stage which cycled through the aforementioned selection of images, although cleverly in time with the music the huge images left people gawping motionlessly, hindering their desire to start pogoing, gyrating or whatever other trendy dance moves took their fancy. In fact the venue itself was what let the event down, the Pavilion Theatre being an odd choice for what should have been a raucous, and dance fuelled celebration. Putting the night on in an actual club would have been sensible; the Hacienda inspired Factory 256 being a perfect choice, not only for its historical connotations but also for its practical benefits.
In regards to the playlist itself you couldn’t have asked for a more complete eighties collection. Dabbling between the obvious picks to more obscure acts like Easterhouse and Godley & Crème, everyone’s favourites were likely to be in there. Enthusiasm fluctuated between tracks with the biggest cheers predictably coming for the full seven minutes of ‘Blue Monday’ and an extended Smiths medley inducing a ‘This Charming Man’ sing-along.
With most club nights out in the city around £5 or £7, the £12 for an 1980s ‘musical history in sound and pictures’ seemed pricey for what in essence was a premixed playlist combined with a premade slide show for two and a half hours.
While it was great to hear the dystopian oddity of, Bob Dylan and Keith Richard love child, John Cooper Clarke’s Chicken Town or The Fall’s frantic Eat Y'self Fitter blasted out loud the whole night was disappointingly subdued.
Rob Da Bank’s Musical History in Sound and Pictures is part of the Manchester International Festival. Dates are Saturday 13 July, 1990s (11pm); Thursday 18 July, 2000s (11pm); Friday 19 - 2010 & beyond (11pm).
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