As a warm up to one of the band’s biggest ever shows – headlining the End of the Road festival at the start of the month – Unknown Mortal Orchestra played an intimate show at Southampton’s 1865.
Having spent the last 5 albums releasing songs that certainly plough an idiosyncratic path, the live show is just as fuzzily eclectic. Frontman Ruban Nielson’s songs move back and forth between shoe gazing musings and lo-fi jangles and tonight’s set certainly highlights the multi-modal approach the records take. Opener ‘The Garden’ is all breezy 70s M.O.R whilst ‘So Good at Being in Trouble’ sounds like some long lost Sam Cooke number before morphing into a guitar heavy version of ‘Waves of Confidence’. As the set continues the songs range from feedback laden jangly pop to laid back wigged out grooves. It’s easy to get lost in the soundscape created and Nielson’s guitar work is highly skilled with plenty of blissed out noodling which for many watching tonight is a real highlight.
For all the sonic diversity what perhaps we don’t get as much are headliner type anthems whilst Nielson’s stage to audience interactions are kept to a minimal ‘How’s it going?’ every now and again. Whether this is something to care about is seemingly irrespective though as between the feedback and schizoid guitar there are some beautifully melodic delights. There’s no denying the psych pop sensibilities of ‘Multi-Love’ which even gets a crowd clap along whilst ‘Honeybee’s’ lush orchestral synth flourishes shine brightly alongside a vibrant version of ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’.
As warm ups go it’s a fine run through highlighting both their career to date and the distinctive approach they bring to the live setting. Scuzzed up and very much turning a cheek to the mainstream but the songs are just too good to not be cherished.
Photo: Ortiz Arenas