Chromatics + Desire + Double Mixte
Albert Hall, 27 Peter St, Manchester M2 5QR
Wednesday 23rd October 2019

Despite being formed in 2001, Chromatics are an act I wasn’t familiar with.  Usually when I receive a press release about a band I haven’t heard of, they are performing in one of the small venues around Liverpool or Manchester, but as they were playing at the 3,000 capacity Albert Hall I was intrigued.

Listening to their material on spotify and watching their videos on YouTube, some of their tracks I love with their dark 60’s film soundtrack sound, others to my ears are a little wishy-washy, but I was still interested in hearing them live.

The current album “Closer to Grey” I’ve been listening to a lot – a really solid album with a mixture of chilled tunes, an impressive cover of “The Sound of Silence”.  “Through the looking glass” reminds me of Victorialand era Cocteau Twins and “On the Wall” reminds me of the Mary Chain, not to mention the outstanding lead single “You’re no Good”.

If the band were to perform this album live, I’d buy a ticket like a shot.  Sadly tonight, they didn’t seem to be playing much, if anything from it, at least whilst I was there.

Their label is called “Italians Do it Better” and there was certainly a keen sense of classic Italian styling with all 3 acts looking stunning.  It would have been a photographers dream if it weren’t for the lighting.

It’s a cliche of course that photographers are always complaining about lighting at venues, and of course my auto-focus system struggling doesn’t impact the audience in the slightest.

However, whilst watching the band I felt that particularly on some of the more mellow numbers, they could have done with better, more dramatic lighting to pull the audience in more.

As it was, I felt like I was in a small club who can’t afford decent lighting with bog standard pink and blue side lights flashing a bit and the odd flash of the spots.  In a small club, the poor lighting is made up for by the intimate setting, which of course a large venue like The Albert Hall doesn’t have.

The people behind the show clearly have a lot of ideas and a keen sense of style, and I believe that with a little more imagination on the lighting, it could turn it from a good show to a much more impressive, immersive one, particularly in a stunning venue like the Albert Hall.

There was a good turn out with a nearly full downstairs and about 1/3rd of the seats upstairs in use.

It seems most people know Chromatics through their work with David Lynch, particularly Twin Peaks – which I haven’t got around to watching yet, hence why they slipped under my radar.

Obviously, when most of the audience know a band through David Lynch they are going to be a bit more sophisticated than the kind of people who spend most of a gig chatting to their mate until the hit(s) they are waiting for come on.  Whilst the audience weren’t particularly animated, I got the impression that everyone was enjoying the show.

Though, for example when Desire covered New Order’s “Confusion” it seemed to fall relatively flat, considering this is New Order’s home town.  It was a good cover, but just felt like it got lost in a large venue.  I don’t know a lot about the technicalities of PA systems but to me it needed a bit more “oomph” so you can physically feel the music.  And did I mention the lighting?

I needed to catch a train back to Liverpool so thought I’d watch a few songs of the headliner to get a taste of what they are all about.  Some songs made me think “I’ll leave after the next one”, a couple were brilliant and made me want to stay and see more.

My take-away from the show was that if you’re already a fan you’d probably enjoy it.  If you’re going as a curious observer (which is unlikely unless you are reviewing/photographing shows), there were moments of sheer greatness, but probably needs a bit of work to fully win me over.

Do listen to the superb current album.


Words + Pictures: John W. King