Friday, March 30, 2007

Manchester Versus Cancer

As a naturalised Mancunion, the sense of civic identity that exists in my adopted city never ceases to amaze me.

I spent the first eighteen years of my life in London, but despite the lyrics of that old song I don't think that being a Londoner was ever a notable part of my identity, nor a significant part of the identities of Londoners I knew then or have known since. Indeed prior to moving to Manchester I never really appreciated that your city or even region of residence could be a bond that tied you to others or form part of how you saw yourself.

Mancunion and North West identity are rarely more evident than on nights like tonight, as we head to the MEN Arena for the Manchester Versus Cancer gig.

With acts like McAlmont and Butler, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Charlatans, Ian Brown and Noel Gallagher playing, the stage is set for quite some night. As if this wasn't enough we have DJ sets from Tin Tin, Mani and The Doves, inter act comedy from John Thompson, Johnny Vegas and Alan Carr and musical cameos/collaborations from everyone from Andy Rourke, Denise Johnson and Peter Hook.

Truly our cup over runneth.

T who apparently ‘loves me and wants to have my babies’ on account of letting him have a last minute spare ticket, accurately describes his level of excitement as akin to a nine year old at their birthday party.

The night doesn’t fail to deliver. From Johnny Vegas attempting to crowd surf and encourage a crowd of 15,000 to surge forward to crush the heckler at the front, to hearing McAlmont sing Yes with a voice that was always stunning, but has developed depth and richness over the years, every bit of this evening’s entertainment hits the mark.

In Ian’s Brown’s first number I lean to T and comment “thank God his vocals are on form tonight”. Fatal last words. The next track has his tuning stumble and from then on he’s struggling (although he returns to his best for the odd track). As T observes at the end of the set, he’s seen the King Monkey give genius like performances and he’s seen him give bloody awful performances, but never before has he witnessed both in one night. Still when you command such effortless cool and home crowd adoration most things are forgivable.

The headline act is Noel Gallagher. To be honest whilst I have a lingering fondness for the antics of Burnage’s favourite sons (invariably interview gold), my love of the music waned as their embrace of Dad Rock grew. That said Noel on a stage with an acoustic guitar is something to behold. I have to confess he won me over.

Joined by a few musicians and a strings section, his version of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, is just beautiful (though nothing can compete with hearing Morrisey sing this) and by the time he plays Half a World Away with all its additional Mancunion nuances courtesy of The Royale Family, the crowd are eating out of his hand. As he leaves the stage he urges us to stick around for the finale, which he claims from having watched rehearsals put the words ‘car’ and ‘crash’ in his head.

Happily his prediction is misplaced and the finale is more than worth hanging on for. In a semi Stone Roses reunion, Mani joins Ian Brown (and Hooky and Andy Rourke – how many bassists do we need?) and we’re treated to I Am the Resurrection.

Quite some night – it’s always great to see Manchester celebrate it’s musical heritage like this and best of all, the event should have raised a shed load of money for Christies.

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