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Macbeth, London
Friday November 1 2013



Well, this one is going to be a bit different. Tonight Manflu play an entire set of songs by The Cure - early stuff only, all the angsty bedroom classics.

On the face of it, it's an odd idea, especially as the band has an album on the way.

You'd think they would be relentlessly focused on plugging their own stuff, rather than giving Robert Smith and his gang a tribute gig.

But then again, why not? In a world where bands are supposed to be ruthless careerists, the notion of taking time out for a gig that has nothing to do with relentless self-promotion, and everything to do with having fun, has a lot going for it. And anyway, the band might even win a few new fans tonight, because the audience in the Macbeth is not the usual collection of Manflu-heads. It's halloween, more or less, and the venue is rammed with a party crowd eager to get their spook on.

ManfluThe idea of halloween as a kind of all-purpose party opportunity has only recently taken off in the UK. It's an American import, essentially. In the USA halloween has been an excuse for a giant costume party for years - I recall visiting New York for the Drop Dead Festival in 2005, and being quite taken aback at what a massive event halloween had become - parades, TV coverage, the works.

We don't have the parades or TV coverage yet, but halloween has become a much bigger deal in the UK over the last decade, and there's a pub fiull of revellers here tonight to prove it.

If truth be told, most of 'em probably don't much care what band they see, as long as a suitably boisterous noise rocks the dancefloor. But a few might end up as converts to the Manflu cause. It's worth a try, innit.

So here come Manflu, dressed up and messed up. I had half hoped they'd all dress up as Robert Smith, but that would have been a bit too obvious, perhaps.

Instead, the band is rocking a theme of spooktastic surrealism - and they're clanging and thrumming through 'Three Imaginary Boys', a pretty faithful musical rendition of the old fave, with vocalist Aza Shade's deadpan drawl a counter-intuitively apt replacement for the Bob Smith wail.

Then it's a brisk canter through the old school Cure songbook, the band sounding surprisingly at home on songs that are, by and large, more conventionally structured - more linear - than Manflu's own prog-punk tangents.

'Primary' is a dark, dense, rush and push; 'Play For Today' has a stark bleakness that's somehow enhanced by the absence of Robert Smith's suburban squall of a vocal, and the presence of Aza's disdainful plaint.

'A Forest' is brisk, no-nonsense, but it's 'One Hundred Years' - The Cure at their most restive and fretful - that Manflu build into their own looming tower of angst. It's a completely convincing rendition, so much so that I'd be tempted to keep it in the regular Manflu set. But Manflu don't do covers, except on special occasions such as this. Once those hundred years are gone, they're gone. But I'm glad I was here to hear them.

'Killing An Arab' neatly wraps up the set, the crowd applauds mightily, and the DJ takes over for some halloween club action. I don't know how many of the assembled revellers have taken on board the fact that Manflu are a real band, with songs of their own and gigs coming up - we'll have to see who turns up at the next proper Manflu show.

But even if only two or three have been assimilated, that's two or three more than the band started with - and the rest of the crowd has been given a healthy dose of Manflu strangeness, which I'm sure will do them good. The weird stuff isn't just for halloween, you know.

Manflu: Website | Facebook

For more photos from this gig, find Manflu by name here.


Page credits: Words, photos and construction by Michael Johnson. Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston. Red N version by Mark Rimmell.

Words and photos in Nemesis To Go by Michael Johnson are licenced under Creative Commons. You may copy and distribute this material, or derivations of it, provided that you give a credit to Michael Johnson and a link to Nemesis To Go. Where material from other sources is used, copyright remains with the original owners. All rights in the name 'Nemesis To Go' and the 'N' logo are retained.