Owl City – Manchester University

By paul

I won’t go into why Punktastic is not only covering one Owl City show on this tour but two… I agree it’s not Punk but let’s not go down that road please.

I was very sceptical about seeing a relatively new band headline a reasonably large club venue. I originally bought a ticket for this show when it was advertised as Academy 3 and this is the first time I can recall a gig being upgraded through from 3 to 1 since Snow Patrol in 2004, I’m sure there have been others but it’s a clear sign of the level of hype around Owl City at the moment. I feel for that reason the level of expectation tonight in the audience is elevated beyond what it should be.

The Toronto based Lights produces a competent short set tonight. Above competent to be fair. I don?t see this venue as one of the easiest to impress in and she gives a good account. There is a clear stage presence on display and she has no issues with being able to engage a mixed crowd. It all feels very natural. Those who know of her will be aware it?s very much an electronic based set which mostly goes down very well. It all finishes with 2 acoustic guitar numbers which in theory could have been a highlight but a combination of poor guitar sound and nattering from the audience, as their focus appears lost, prevent this. A good start to the night though and not bad from someone who?s just got her voice back.

Owl City begin proceedings with a cute Violin/cello intro and the strings remain a nice accompaniment to the majority of the performance, adding something to the overall experience. Adam Young soon joins the rest of the band as they go into ‘Umbrella Beach’, to predictable rapturous applause. The hype would suggest the crowd would initially heap praise tonight but it?s well justified. Adam clearly has some moves and seems very relaxed in his environment, the backing vocals/keys by Breanne Duren also work really well. She has this innocence about her that comes across as almost charming; think an electronic but less impressive version of Lisa Hannigan.

The biggest surprise tonight is ‘Fireflies’ occurring just 5th song in (less than half way through the set). Considering it being their biggest commercial success, I was expecting it as an encore. I appreciate the statement this articulates though, with the belief they have much better songs to finish with. ‘Meteor Shower’ that follows also has a real tempo to it, suggesting the band are kicking it up a notch. It latches on well to the energy that ‘Fireflies’ provides. There is later, following this, a much more mellow tone to proceedings though but this doesn’t detract from the quality with ‘Saltwater Room’ in particular being a highlight tonight.

Overall there is plenty on show to suggest that Owl City (Adam Young) has a bright future in this business and will not end up being the ‘one hit wonder’ that some may predict. This is a very polished live show that exceeds expectations and Adam’s eye for a catchy pop song will likely mean he’ll be on the airwaves for a good deal longer. The only criticism would be that it is all a bit samey but with just one ‘major’ release this is perhaps a little harsh.