“Vocalist and band leader Jesse Rutherford has a comfortable magnetism about him, so riveting that the audience has to peel their eyes away from him to notice the other members…”
The Neighbourhood | The Ruby Lounge, Manchester 03.05.13
The Ruby Lounge is a dimly lit venue in the alternative-haven of Manchester’s Northern Quarter. But even its subtle, deep burgundy couches and sparse lighting seem to turn into something from The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour when The Neighbourhood walk onto the stage; so much, that frontman Jesse Rutherford has to ask for the lights to be turned down halfway through Alleyways.
The whole band is dressed in their usual black and white, and seem to have all opted to shave their heads; one can safely assume that this is the result of singer’s orders. Rutherford is clearly more than just the band’s vocalist; he writes the songs, designed their logo, and has input in anything visual-related that the band releases; and you will find it hard to argue with this when you witness him onstage. He has a comfortable magnetism about him, so riveting that the audience has to peel their eyes away from him to notice the other members; and that’s before he takes off his leather jacket three songs into the gig, to show off his numerous tattoos.
The visuals are clearly important to Rutherford and the band; this assorted wardrobe is reminiscent of Coldplay’s matching army outfits during the Viva La Vida era, but here it enhances the performance; the simple, contrasting tones providing the perfect platform for the band’s clean hip-hop beats and cool guitars to meld with Rutherford’s singing; and boy can he sing.
Rutherford’s vocals, already a highlight on debut album I Love You, is the focal point of The Neighbourhood’s live performance. They are near identical to what you get on record, with Rutherford occasionally swapping his standard mic for a blues harmonica microphone to give an edgier tone to his vocals, before effortlessly swinging it over his shoulder and returning to the former. His incredibly crisp performance is somewhat let down by the backing vocals; while the harmonies are a powerful element of the band’s pop melodies on record, they aren’t as clear and efficient onstage.
Backing vocals aside, the rest of the band is on form. The guitars and bass, including clever use of feedback, create a transcending atmosphere that enshrouds the crowd, while the hip-hop influenced drumbeats of Bryan Sammis propel the tunes forward relentlessly (notably on ‘Flawless’). They launch into a short instrumental break before diving into crowd-favourite ‘Sweater Weather’, complete with its addictive beat, sparse resonating guitars, and Rutherford’s angelic Oh-Ohs, all very familiar to tonight’s crowd.
However, it’s the set-closer, ‘Afraid’, that surprises the most. While the song’s clumsy insult-laden lyrics can be cringe inducing on record, here, it results in a wave of passionate middle-fingered salutes initiated by Rutherford, as the whole crowd sings along, making it infinitely better than it’s album counterpart.
Debut album I Love You is out now.