Novo Amor brings a studio-perfect production and performance to Manchester’s New Century Hall

Sad boy music at it's finest and as the man himself said, 'I know what I am'.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 12th April 2024

Friday night’s gig at New Century Hall was one of those where you’re so stunned by the show that you’re left wishing the act in front of you was Manc so you could claim them as you’re own – but sadly Novo Amor is a Welshman and we had to give him back.

The stage name for the highly impressive multi-instrumentalist and producer, Ali John Meredith-Lacey, in truth seeing him for the first time here in Manchester proved that the Novo Amor really is the sum of many talented parts.

Much like Bon Iver in that sense and in style, sound and approach to making music, for without Justin Vernon and co. there would be no Novo, one of our first worries was that he would be unable to carry over the level of production and sound design heard on the albums to the stage performance.

That’s where his full band came in, who ensured not only that the whole thing sounded virtually studio-perfect but took a step beyond what we ever thought we’d get to hear at a Novo Amor gig. And it all started with Ed Tullet performing under his own stage name Lowswimer for the opening act.

Anyone who listens to Novo will likely be aware of the little sub-group of artists that all swim in the same circle, from Ali himself to the likes Gia Margaret, Sean Carey (part of Bon Iver) and Yvette Young, to Hailaker – Tullet being one-half opposite Jemima Coulter – as well as Lowswimmer and several others.


He might have only played a handful of songs with only a guitar, including a couple of beautiful Hailaker tracks, but it was more than enough to leave an impression of the very sincere artist who clearly has a massive influence on all of those around him.

Explaining that this would be his second to last show perform with Novo Amor due to health issues and the general toll of touring, having helped write, record, produce and play the bulk of music ever put out under that name since day dot, it was a fittingly sombre and intimate warm-up.


However, even in delivering the more stripped-back set we were already half expecting from the headliner, we almost managed to get both sides of this little mini-music community: the quieter acoustic stuff where big vocals moments are left to shine, and they did, as well as the real deal.

Novo Amor live at New Century
There was even a moment when tiny embers began to flicker as if you were listening to the guitar around a campfire.

When Ali and the rest of his band finally walked out on stage, with Ed himself receding back into what looked to be the more comfortable position just outside of the spotlight, it suddenly dawned on us that it wouldn’t just be a few folky guitars and some nice piano playing.

After the Lowswimmer’s ironically low-lit stage had somehow managed to hide a quietly better-budget backdrop, the stage suddenly began to light up as Novo Amor wandered on to pick up their instruments and play and from here on out we were just as captivated by the lights and effects as we were the music.


Be it thin but sharp white lines tracing the borders of light boxes like a weird game of snake; solid blocks of electric blues, warm yellows and moody reds appearing on perfectly-timed musical cues or dots delicately twinkling into a slow-moving constellation, each song felt like an experience.

Not sure we’ll ever get over seeing this track being introduced in such a stunning way and in a venue as eye-catching as New Century:

Novo Amor stuns Manchester with ‘Same Day, Same Face’, fresh from his new album Collapse List at New Century.

Similar to Ed when he was busy tuning his guitar, Ali let on that his talent lies in bringing these intricately built-up tracks to life not only in record form but in translating them for the live shows too, choosing to ask ChatGPT for some ‘on-stage banter in the style of Novo Amor’ to fill the gaps.

Truthfully, as much as both parties said they were ‘not good at this kind of stuff’, he did a good job at handling the short lulls between songs by letting people ask questions, daft or not, as well as making sure water got to those feeling faint in the hot room. Everyone was fine, don’t worry.

In fact, when one girl seemingly passed out nearer to the front of the crowd as he came towards the end of fan favourite Halloween (you have no idea how gorgeous that song sounds with a full room of people singing it back, by the way), he still managed to check on her whilst quietly playing the outro. A total pro.


Those were the three key letters here in every sense the more we think about it; be it the effortless professionalism in recreating what you hear in your headphones down to the tee and then some live, or the production levels and simple but striking set design behind them, it was verging on surreal.

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We might not have been anticipating such a put-together set and overall level of production both in terms of sound and the often mesmerising visuals but we don’t know why, because we absolutely should’ve.

This is what you get when you put a group of extremely talented musicians and multi-instrumentalists together in one place. They might make highly complex, heavily layered and often delicate sounds with electronics and technology playing a big role, but they also know how to ramp it up for an audience.

All we can pray is that the next time Novo is back in Manchester he brings at least one half of Hailaker along again and maybe a surprise showing from another corner of this collective.

A special shout-out has to go to Ed as well; we have no shame in admitting that watching Ali looking on at his long-term creative partner and mate with a smile as he signed off his time with the live band by belting out the final tune had us welling up.

Novo Amor might not be from Manchester but we want him back soon.

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Featured Images — The Manc Group