Mando Diao / Last Gang - Club Academy Manchester - 10.03.07

Wakefield’s post-punk and earthy rock protagonists Last Gang use the hearty thurst of lead man Kristian Walker’s vocals early on, to fatten out the viewing area. Cantering bass lines get the action moving and dual vocals are filtered in to draw out the hardy sound and create a lively atmosphere on stage, befitting of a Mando gig. ’Beat Of Blue’ is the number that sticks out for its robust riffs and combined vocal hits. The crowd is largely content to take on a watching stance, conserving energy for the main set, but the rhythm and emotive kick is receiving nods of approval. The bold ska feel given off by ‘Billy’ that runs through The Specials and Stray Cats territory, imbues the set with some free spirit and hints at an adventurous side to Last Gang. An earnest and genuine presence coupled with earthy material helps to create a friendly Saturday night atmosphere. It is a case of job done for these Yorkshire men.

Given the strict 11pm curfew at the Academy, there were more than a few grimaces upon site of the Mando Diao scheduled stage time of 21;50. This renegade Swedish, musical powerhouse has enough material and big enough reputation to dole 90 minutes sets with ease. Three albums worth of material (only two of which have been released in the UK, the debut ‘Bring Em’ In’, curiously enough, has still to be released in its entirety here), now has to be crammed into an even shorter time, as 21;50 comes and goes and the beered up excitement grows. The wait is soon forgotten, as the quintet haughtily arrives and selects to kick things off with one of the more robust offerings, ‘Welcome Home, Luc Robitaille’ from the new ‘Ode To Ochrasy’ album. This number along with the bemused and biting old song, ‘Sheepdog’ shines a light on the Swedish The Libertines tag that’s been placed on these guys. The pace is relentless early doors and this is fed off by the exuberant 350-ish crowd, who have easily forgotten about the procrastination that delayed the start. They seem to be relishing the fact that here in the UK is the only place you can see this band in 500 capacity venue. In the rest of Europe, America and Asia they play in arenas at least ten times this size. Why? That is still a mystery, especially given the thrusting 70s British rock sound and the ruggedly uncompromising nature that Mando possesses.

The latest album shows a more reflective and atmosphere building side that is largely left in the locker tonight, coming through briefly in the slightly sombre ‘Ochrasy’. The rugged combined vocal hits of Bjorn Dixgard and Gustaf Norgen stand firm all the way through and their utter belief is visible. Something that is rushed out from the fat bass-line led ‘A Picture Of ‘Em All’, to keep that Saturday party vibe growing. The lurid garage rock sing-along of ‘The Band’ makes up the encore and completes a set shy of an hour, leaving no time for the big single ‘You Can’t Steal My Love’. Also the lighters had to stay in pockets or handbags, as the wistful and longing new song ‘New Boy’ that shows Mando’s biggest departure from their seedy rock base, has to be left out. Despite this, the racing tempo created by the material that was selected finds universal favour. Questions about the UK music industry’s ability to recognise and promote true talent needs to be raised, given the band’s prominence elsewhere.

David Adair

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