LIVE: Minus The Bear / Joan Of Arc @ Gorilla, Manchester

By Liam Knowles

Openers Joan Of Arc have been around the block for a long time (their debut album is 20 years old!) and there are clearly some die-hard fans in the crowd, but their set feels a little bit disjointed at first and struggles to find pace. Legendary emo lifer Tim Kinsella is captivating, obviously, but there are large sections where he goes it alone, and the rest of the members seem like they don’t really know what to do with themselves during these parts. Two or three tracks in they gain traction and put on an impressive performance (featuring a very DIY light show) and leave the bulk of the audience satisfied with the helping of 90s-tinged emo rock / electronic noise they’ve just been fed. Well, mostly satisfied, with a side-serving of slightly confused.

One band that cannot be accused of being disjointed are headliners Minus The Bear, aka the heaviest pop band in the world. They open with ‘Last Kiss’ from 2017’s ‘Voids’ and the audience is instantly bathed in their distinctive glistening and textured sound. To describe the sound as ‘album-perfect’ would be doing it a disservice because live it packs much more of a punch, sweeping the audience like a wave. Ex-Botch guitarist Dave Knudson is on fire as usual, hurling himself round the stage like he’s still in a metal band whilst weaving an intricate web of live samples, loops and tapping patterns, all the while somehow making it look easy.

Vocalist Jake Snider is also on fine form this evening, his smooth and calming voice gliding through new and old material alike. Particular highlights include ‘Knights’ from  2007’s ‘Planet Of Ice’ and a few choice cuts from fan favourite ‘Menos El Oso’ including ‘The Game Needed Me’ and the rapturous ‘Pachuca Sunrise.’ Keyboardist Alex Rose takes the lead vocal on ‘Call The Cops’ which adds a new dynamic to an already very dynamic sound.

It is literally impossible to be anything other than happy whilst watching Minus The Bear. Their Cheshire Cat grins, daft-in jokes and banter are almost as infectious as their elaborate yet charming surf rock styling. It’s clear to see why after 16 plus years people are still turning out to see this absolute anomaly of a band. Technical but never pretentious, hard hitting without ever resorting to heavy music clichés, infectiously melodic but never cheesy; Minus The Bear may be the perfect good-time band.