There have been many notable hiatuses in popular music, and many enigmatic artists, but The Avalanches are up in the top division. They burst forth in 2000 with one of the most innovative & original records of recent times, and a few years later promptly disappeared again (“Frontier Psychiatrist” puts in an appearance in one of my scratchy old mixes, recorded on a cassette, which gives a good indication how long ago the 1st phase was). After repeated rumours, the appearance of a delphic twitter account, in 2016 “Wildflower” broke cover, and made the 16 year gap feel like the blinking of an eye, a testament to the fact that no-one has ever made music quite like the Avalanches.
So there was some excitement when news broke that not only were they back, they were playing live shows in Europe in the summer. In these quarters the excitement rose even higher when one of the shows was nearby in Manchester, and at the Albert Hall, (a relatively recent addition to the live circuit, and with the circular balcony and stained glass windows, one of the very best). The show was sold out and there was a crackling sense of excitement in the air, with many people not knowing what to expect, an Avalanches live show being about as regularly seen in the UK as a Snow Leopard. What was also very clear is the audience wasn’t just people of a certain age reliving the days gone by, (though former Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron did walk right past), the new material has most certainly also attracted a new and younger audience. Anticipation levels and spirits were high as the PA blasted out Oasis before the band finally appeared just after 9, consisting of 2 original members on keyboards and guitars, drums, vocals and an MC. They ripped right into the eminently catchy “Because I’m Me“, the band were tight and the vocalist was excellent and things looked very promising indeed, the upward trajectory continued with a rabble rousing version of “Guns Of Brixton” and another favourite from the new record “Frankie Sinatra” kept the excitement levels bubbling.
The mid part of the set was notable as the ethereal dance music of “Subways” phased into some more straightforward pulsing beats as the vocalists and the drummer left the stage for a short period, only to return for a bouncing version of an old Funkdub favourite “Bump” by Spank Rock, (later research revealed that the MC touring with the band is, of course, Spank Rock!). “Frontier Psychiatrist” was present and correct and the band finished on a relatively low key note with “If I Was A Folk Star”. Inevitably there was an encore, and equally inevitably the show ended with the evergreen “Since I Left You“, and all too quickly a very hot and very elated crowd were making for the exit, and therein lies the only real complaint about the performance, the set was about an hour long, and the audience would most certainly have enjoyed a slightly longer show. However this is a very very minor gripe, the set had no filler and the band were sent away with rapturous applause and that speaks to artists who, perhaps better than most, understand that it’s always good to leave the audience wanting more.
(Photograph taken by GK, with his phone, in accordance with the correct rules)