Review and Photography by John Bentley.

Wow! A truly mind-blowing evening at Manchester’s Albert Hall with Aussie psych rockers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Catch them live if you can.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Manchester Albert Hall

Opening tonight is H. Hawkline, aka Huw Evans and his band. Evans, now living in Los Angeles, USA, is a frequent collaborator with fellow Welsh expat Cate Le Bon and there are clear similarities of style between the two. Evans opens with his catchy new single ‘Engineers’ from the new album, ‘I Romanticize’ (unfortunately adopting the American spelling, despite his British heritage). His wonderfully melodic and quirky lo-fi set would sound much better in a small and more intimate venue, but as it is there is a lot of background noise and distracting activity as the hall fills up.

H. Hawkline, Manchester Albert Hall

Some great, highly original and genuinely enjoyable bands have emerged from Australia in recent years. I’m thinking particularly of Tame Impala and Pond, who have pioneered their own styles of what might be loosely termed psychedelia, but who have also taken on board a lot of other musical genres, from punk through to surf and krautrock.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Manchester Albert Hall

Originally from Melbourne, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (let’s call them KGATLW to save space) have been around since 2010, but they seem to have burst onto the scene big-time in the past year – sufficiently so to sell out the capacious Albert Hall tonight. Their popularity seems to be down to their legendary live shows and a profusion of stylistically diverse great records, which have managed to show artistic development and yet also maintain quality control. KGATLW have said they’re bringing out four or five new albums this year, which shows real confidence and they might even do it (album three, ‘Murder of the Universe’, comes out 23rd June).

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Manchester Albert Hall

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Manchester Albert Hall

After a bit of a wait and lots of booming percussive techno on the PA system (enough to vibrate your internal organs if you stand too close to the speakers), the seven-piece KGATLW take the stage. The stage looks pretty packed with seven musicians, including two drummers facing each other across at each other.

Lead Gizzard Stu Mackenzie announces that the first number is (the fast-paced frenzied chug that is) ‘Rattlesnake’, the opening track from the brilliant recent album, ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’. The title refers to the microtonally tuned instruments used on the album which, as a result, has a very eastern droney sound to it. Stu Mackenzie does most, but not all of the singing and the band swap instruments and places on stage for some numbers.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Manchester Albert Hall

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard Manchester Albert Hall

The audience on this hot and clammy Summer evening are a mixed bunch of all ages, but include quite a few younger folk who are really up for a bit of crowd-surfing, a practice much frowned-upon by most venues these days. Through the evening there is a continuous line of young men and woman who are conveyed over the heads of the crowd and into the mosh pit at the front, where they are carefully retrieved by the Albert Hall’s security staff, who seem a very good natured bunch. Indeed Stu Mackenzie himself has been known to do a bit of crowd-surfing. At the recent Brighton gig he was apparently ‘surfed’ out of the venue, down the beach and into the sea and then back to the stage again. Oh, to have been at that gig!
The Albert Hall is a former Methodist chapel and a beautiful venue with stained glass windows and ornamental features and with its high stage and raised upper balcony it gives audiences a first class view of the stage. The downside of the very high stage is that it’s difficult for us photographers to get pictures from down in the mosh pit. However, no problem tonight as the band have decided that the usual rule of only allowing photography for the first three songs from the pit does not apply. We are allowed to photograph the whole gig and from any place in the hall. Gig photographers’ heaven! Hopefully the pictures with this review therefore convey some of the sheer excitement and joy of the evening!

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Manchester Albert Hall

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Manchester Albert Hall

Tonight’s set draws from several of KGATLW’s albums, notably ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ and its predecessor ‘Nonagon Infinity’. We are also treated to some songs from the forthcoming album ‘Murder of the Universe’, which, beneath its psych-beat has a serious environmentally apocalyptic theme.

But with this band it’s not so much what individual songs are played, but about the overall performance. The ‘Nonagon Infinity’ album was notable for being a continual groove, with the band appearing to play continuously through the album without stopping and seemingly ending at the same point as the record started. And so it is with their live shows – they do stop between songs, but the whole show is very much an entity.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Manchester Albert Hall

Having said that there are constant familiar and head-banging riffs for fans to groove to, with old favourites like ‘Gamma Knife’ and ‘Robot Stop’ being churned out in rapid succession. Plus some great twisted psych guitar on songs like ‘Billabong Valley’. The new songs played are unfamiliar, but sound quite heavy – like ‘The Lord of Lightning’, which owes quite a bit to Black Sabbath. Stylistically this band is always moving on and each album is noticeably different.

The show draws to a close after an hour and half, with the band playing two ‘classics’, ‘Cellophane’ and ‘The River’, from their back catalogue. They leave the stage with waves and thanks. There’s no encore, but the house lights come up and over the PA system comes Oasis’s ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, which has become a bit of an anthem for Manchester since the terrorist bombing on May 22nd. The crowd sway and sing the words as they face and embrace friends and strangers with joy written all over their faces. It’s probably the best ending you could have to the evening.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Manchester Albert Hall

Doom City
Sleep Drifter
Billabong Valley
Nuclear Fusion
Open Water
Robot Stop
Gamma Knife
Alter Me I
Altered Beast II
Alter Me II
Altered Beast III
The Lord of Lightning
CellophaneThe River.

2 Responses to “King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and H. Hawkline @ Albert Hall, Manchester, UK – 14th June 2017”

  1. Gig Junkies » Blog Archive » ALBUM PREVIEW: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard & Mild High Club, ‘Sketches Of Brunswick East’ Says:

    […] **Photos from our review of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard at Manchester Albert Hall in June 2017, courtesy of John Bentley – check out our review HERE. […]

  2. Gig Junkies » Blog Archive » King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard + Mild High Club, Manchester Academy, UK – 22nd February 2018 Says:

    […] gig and I’ve even forked-out twenty quid of my own cash to be here. The photos are mine from KGATLW’s 2017 gig at Manchester’s Albert […]

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