Live Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – London

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

unknown mortal orchestraShepard’s Bush Empire, London, 23rd September 2015

Words: Nick Jacques

The anticipation for last night’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra gig at the empire could not have been any higher. After dazzling us with 3 albums full of mind-bending psychedelic pop with dollops of soulful indulgence – last night was the time for UMO to step up and be counted as one of the main frontrunners in the music hemisphere of today. They responded to this challenge in marvellous fashion!

I managed to catch them at the Electric Ballroom in Camden when they were promoting their 2nd and breakthrough album II and I thought the acoustics sounded a bit flat that night but fast-forward a couple of years on and their sound has developed into much more robust and fearless creature. Ruben Nielsen’s guitar workouts have a more coherent and commanding tone to them, Riley Geare’s drumming is both potent and dynamic, both the keys and bass players provided a strong and durable foundation which give Nielsen the space to expand and engage with the whipped-up audience. Each of the band members are accomplished in their fields and as a collective help to deliver a bombastic 3 album mash up full of fan favourites and show-stopping moments!

The beefed-up guitar and strident keyboard workouts on set opener Like Acid from their latest critically acclaimed album Multi Love immediately had me gripped– they’ve obviously been working on their live show and it’s paid dividends.

They followed up with the irresistible track From The Sun off their 2nd album II and the drummer put on a solo piece that was delivered with both precision and a playful intensity – he had the whole crowd in awe.

Thought Ballune, The World Is Crowded and their most popular track So Good at Being In Trouble all showed that UMO were willing to experiment and put an invigorating spin on tracks from their back catalogue.

Half way through, Nielsen decided to get involved by threatening to crowd surf, he climbed up the stage speakers and thought about diving into the crowd, he then decided to bottle it and then wandered into the crowd and danced with a few lucky punters and then wandered up to the rafters and proceeded to sing along and involve the crowd – he was clearly having a great time and wanted the crowd to be a part of it – what a guy!

The last 5 tracks were played with such effortless lucidity, it’s hard not to see this band gaining a bigger fan base over here. Their style of music has such a dynamic feel to it that I can see them taking their music to a new and different level. Multi Love is quite a radical departure from their previous efforts and they’ve managed to pull it off with aplomb.

Ffunny Friends beamed out its quirky charm and now sounds like a classic before it’s followed up by the title track of their latest album Multi Love which was sublime in its delivery and the crowd truly showed their appreciation. They finished off their gig with 2 new tracks and they already feel like bonafide classics; Necessary Evil dripped with sultry hip swaying soul thanks to an added horn section and new crowd favourite Can’t Keep Checking My Phone was just too catchy. They revved up the drums and took it up another notch.

And I think they raised expectations and it will be interesting to see where they go with their sound next. I’m excited to see where they take it, as I’m sure the strong majority inside the Empire are too.


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