When somebody mentions country music, you might think towards the honky tonks of downtown Nashville or the dusty saloon bars along Austin’s famous sixth street. What you wouldn’t normally think of, are the grey skies of North-West England…
Well, some 4300 miles from Tulsa, Zach Bryan and his band rolled up to Manchester Cathedral for one night only as part of the sold-out Burn, Burn, Burn tour.
As the sun sets over Manchester, the Grammy nominee emerges from the smoke with his trusty guitar and a can of lager and sets the tone for the rest of the evening – raised limbs and sing alongs.
Switching certain lyrics to suit the occasion, Zach makes references to the host city in some of his biggest hits – “Highway boys on the road tonight, got a gig out in Manchester” – much to the delight of the capacity crowd.
Taking onlookers through a rollercoaster of emotions in true Zach Bryan style, he cycles through the best songs in his catalogue while his fellow band members show off their talents.
The ‘Something in the Orange’ singer takes a humble back seat while his fellow guitarist Lucas Ruge-Jones switches to the trumpet, and later the fiddle – giving incredible solo performances within an already incredible gig.
As chants for ‘one more song’ echo through the gothic architecture, Zach emerges for an encore, with a riveting performance of his hit song ‘Revival’.
The crowd gives as good as they get until the instruments fade and all that’s left is an a-cappella version featuring 1100 Brits and one musician from Oklahoma.
The merch queue grows larger than the beer queue and it hits home that maybe this is the final time you’ll witness Zach Bryan’s talent in such an intimate venue – it seems like it’s arenas from here on out.
The Chemical Brothers’ Ed Simons on upcoming arena tour, forming in Manchester and how the city influenced them
The Chemical Brothers are back and life is good. They never really went anywhere, per se, but they have a new album and a fast-selling UK arena tour, including a date right here in their musical home.
It always surprises us how many people are still unaware that the legendary electronic duo formed right here in Manchester and just how much of our city’s music influenced their unmistakable sound.
Having just released their new record, For That Beautiful Feeling — the tenth studio album in a career spanning nearly three and a half decades — it’s great to know that no matter how much they evolve, you can always spot their signature and that the Manc music scene an integral part in it.
Soon to embark on a fast-selling UK tour with a glorious homecoming at the AO Arena on 27 October, we had the immense pleasure of sitting down with one-half of The Chemical Brothers, Ed Simons, to chat all things past, present and future for one of Britain and the big beat genre’s biggest exports.
Back with more block rockin’ beats and another massive UK tour
So, how much are you looking forward to being back touring new music?
”It’s good to be going back indoors — it’s a big thing, you know, we play a lot of festivals; most of them are good but you get a much better sound [inside] and everyone’s in the same place and, hopefully, in the zone.
“[Post-Covid] A lot of people have still missed out on their first experiences of big loud music and big raucous crowds. Maybe some people are waiting to let go again and thrust into it.”
As for the album, first since 2019, what can you tell us about the direction you’ve gone in?
“Yep, well with performing live we really want to play the new music and just rest on what we’ve done before, we want to incorporate the two. It’s exciting for us. People have heard some of [the record] at summer festivals but now it’s is out there are lots of people that want to experience it for themselves.
“There’s always a core thing: some kind of secret thing between us about what we like about our music. It’s not so much a secret as it is the effect it has on other people but, hopefully, it’s evolving and the sound is still fresh. We don’t ever want people to say, ‘Oh, it’s just another Chemical Brothers record’, there has to be some quality to it.
“It’s a pretty rousing album and has the sense of people waking up again out of a long period where things still are difficult for a lot of people, but that sense of fragmentation that we went through in the lockdowns and what it’s like to come out of that.
“We made a lot of music in that period, but we’ve kind of concentrated on the stuff that feels the most rousing and has a bit of get up and provocation to feel alive again.”
Absolutely — the new singles like ‘No Reason’ definitely tap into that energy. What’s the reaction been like so far?
“Yeah, it’s been good. We had bits of and then had a sort of pressure to put it together into something we could play because we were about to DJ at fabric [in London] a few years ago at a charity gig for a friend of ours and the first time we played it at a club, even a really early version of it, you could feel it had an energy and sounded different. Great bassline too.
“It’s been rewarding and it’s been a really big live track for us this summer and we do a kind of live edit of it, which is fun and fresh.
“The track ‘Tell Me I’m Dreaming’ has also been a really big track. The visual that Flat Nose George [real name Adam Smith] and Marcus [Lyall] put together for that is really crazy, and, yeah, that’s been going down really well. I think that could be pretty huge when played indoors.
“We’ve had versions of it for a long time, but I think the first time we played it was actually at The Warehouse Project in 2021, I think? You know, when things were picking up again and it just immediately had that impact with the loops and the vocal.
“I just associate it with that WHP party in Manchester now and a few DJs have been playing it like Erol Alkan now too, so yeah, it’s kind of a big club track — a strange one but it works.”
Foundations in 0161 and how 90s Manchester influenced The Chemical Brothers’ sound
Definitely, and it doesn’t get much bigger than the AO Arena but what other venues have got fond memories of?
“Well, I know there’s a lot of new venues but given that we’ve been playing Manchester since 1990, we’ve done most venues. We even used to DJ at the Old Steam Brewery [later became ScuBar] which I don’t even know if that still exists [it doesn’t] but yeah we’ve played the Arena and both Warehouses over the past few years and we just love them.
“Victoria Warehouse and WHP are just amazing, you know. Manchester is our second home; we were students there and we’ve still got a lot of friends there.”
“I guess the best memory of the Arena”, Ed chuckled, “was when one of the security guards was walking us back after a said, ‘Corrr, I’ve not seen a crowd like that since Ricky Hatton was here”, adding that it’s a wise-crack that still gets brought up on tour and that all the gig staff here have a “proper good attitude”.
Not too bad a compliment, haha. What about other venues then? Any you’ve still got a soft spot for or have any lasting Manc music memories?
“Well, we were there with all the students and the early ‘Big Barn’ days at Manchester Academy, the indie disco, the house night in a house Thursday; the Wiggly Worm which Justin Robertson ran [went on to become the Millionaire Club] — we were just in and out of all those places and then ended up holding our own club nights.
“We’d hire everything from a swanky bar in town where we’d have to move all our speakers in, to setting up in Pizza Express in Didsbury where we used to go on and party as well.
Amazing. Tell us a little bit about the early days and how you and Tom [Rowland] came to meet at uni.
“Yeah, at the University of Manchester in 1989. We met really early on, pretty much the first week through a mutual friend. We were on this tiny little course on medieval history, so there weren’t many of us, and then I think we were talking about wanting to play the Haçienda, which at that time was the big thing and we’d all heard about it.
“So yeah, we just kind of became friends because we were the only people in this course and we just wanted to go to the Haçienda and I think we ended up going every Friday from September to Christmas. We were just so into the music that Mike Pickering and Graeme Park were playing, and just the whole atmosphere. We also loved buying records together.
“Tom was actually in another band at the time called Ariel, so our thing was just DJing together at first and then after making some more friends about a year into our course we started putting on these nights around town and we got really friendly with a lot of DJs who worked at Eastern Bloc like Robertson and [Richard] ‘Moonboots‘.
It always comes back to Manchester
Ed ended the chat by reiterating that, like many artists who come through here either as natives or otherwise, “there’ll always be a big Manchester connection.”
“We used to buy some really brilliant records that Moonboots would put aside for us and then when we came to London, we were suddenly DJing and playing all these cool records that no one else had heard.
“A really big part of our early career was building that bridge between Manchester and London, and, you know, we were around at the same time as The Stone Roses and we absolutely loved them — that first album had a huge influence.
“There was just that sense of if you’ve got an idea, just try and record it and get it out; there was a sort of can-do feeling about everything and we always feel indebted to that time we spent there. I think without being around all these people and artists printing a thousand white labels, we never would have been exposed to the culture and wouldn’t be coming back to the Arena 34 years later…
“Apparently the lecturer who did that medieval history course still starts his years by telling his students that they’re following in mine and Tom’s footsteps…”
Take That announce FOUR massive gigs at Manchester’s Co-op Live arena
Take That are back and they’re heading out on a massive UK tour next year, with not one but FOUR Manchester dates on the lineup.
The beloved Manchester boyband are absolutely no strangers to some of our city’s biggest stages, with several record-breaking tours having taken place within the past few decades – but now, the lads are back at it again and have just been revealed as the latest headliners in the Co-op Live’s massive opening season next year.
Eagle-eyed fans will know the band have been teasing their return for a little while now, and just yesterday, light projections of their iconic logo was beamed onto venues all around the UK to signal an announcement was imminent.
But what we didn’t know was that it wouldn’t just be one, but four massive Manchester dates.
Take That’s 2024 ‘This Life On Tour’ tour has just been exclusively announced in the old-school way of live on BBC Radio 2 this morning – with Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, and Howard Donald all appearing on The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show to confirm their long-awaited return.
It’s not just a tour the trio’s announced either, as they’ve also just put out a brand-new single today too, titled ‘Windows’.
The track sees them reunite for their first original composition in over five years, and is said to tell the story of “emerging from the darkness into the light”, as it signals a new chapter for one of Britain’s best-selling bands.
The lads say their new music is ushering-in a new Take That era brimming with “energy, creativity, and a continued desire to challenge and surprise”.
As Manchester‘s newest – and soon-to-be the UK’s largest – live entertainment arena nears closer to officially opening its doors and welcoming visitors, Co-op Live has been slowly revealing the music acts set to grace the stage as part of its huge launch season jam-packed full of events – with beloved US boyband Jonas Brothers announced as the first headlining act back in July, and Eric Clapton later confirmed for his first Manchester gig in a decade.
Current US megastar Olivia Rodrigo also has two nights booked in, Irishman and former One Directioner Niall Horan will be taking to the stage, and fellow Mancs Simply Red are also making a special 40th anniversary return.
And now, it’s Take That’s turn.
Take That will be taking to the stage at Co-op Live on 7, 8, 10 and 11 May 2024 as part of the ‘This Life On Tour’ tour.
The trio will be joined by Olly Murs as the support act in Manchester.
Once again, as part of the highly-anticipated £365 million venue’s “pioneering” partnership, Co-op members will get the chance to gain early access to tickets through a designated presale on Wednesday 27 September at 9:30am, all before the general sale takes place.
General sale tickets are available through Co-op Live from 9:30am on Friday 29 September, and you can grab them here.