Nottingham four-piece Divorce return to Manchester on a bitterly cold Monday night. The city is starting to freeze over and the basement of YES is packed out with winter coats and scarves. Divorce have been here once before, playing mid-bill at a label showcase night: tonight they return to headline, on the heels of their second EP, Heady Metal.
Heady Metal dropped a matter of weeks ago, and the crowd are in fine voice for many of the new tunes. They open the show with EP opener, ‘Sex & The Millennium Bridge’, a gloriously sensitive and melancholic number which sums up the band quite nicely. Bassist Tiger Cohen-Towell and guitarist Felix Mackenzie-Barrow bounce off each other wonderfully: their vocal harmonies and guitar parts are in fantastic synch, and as the cut breaks down into a wailing guitar solo you can see the leaps and bounds this band have taken in only a few months.
Early single ‘Services’ goes down an absolute treat (as always), and Divorce treats the crowd to a selection of new songs. The first of which is a fantastically upbeat number, seeing Cohen-Towell’s vocals absolutely soaring, to fantastic effect. There is also a new arrangement for debut EP number ‘That Hill’, which strips the track back completely to just Felix and Tiger’s vocals, accompanied by tender guitar. It sounds gorgeous, and the YES basement is taken aback by the vulnerability of the cut – it’s a truly special moment in the set.
By now the basement is hot, in stark contrast to the chilly Manchester streets above, but the wintery vibes suit Divorce down to the ground. With winter comes an inherent sense of self-doubt and introspection, which suits Divorce right down to the ground: the atmosphere is one of respect, and the room fully buys into the band, giving them space to do their thing, and Divorce seriously impress.
A year of playing shows up and down the country and a packed festival season has them in fine fettle, looking and sounding as good as ever. Their noise is more honed, more refined and they’re kitted out with shiny new guitars: all of these factors add up to something serious, this band is on an exponentially upwards trajectory.
“We don’t have enough tunes to headline properly!”, Cohen-Towell laughs as she apologises for the number of new numbers in the set. No one in the room minds, because the new stuff is really strong: once again they’ve built on their existing sound and launched it up a notch. The final new one, ‘Gears’, is written about the endless car trouble and leans into Divorce’s folky stylings, again with a triumphant outcome. They’re in a serious purple patch of writing – everything is sensitive and heartfelt, whilst also passionate and unrelenting.
The set, and the tour, is closed out with the gloriously, crushingly sad ‘Eat My Words’ and ‘Pretty’, from EP1. It’s triumphant in it’s melancholia, and Mackenzie-Barrow wipes his face, assuring us that it’s sweat and not tears he’s removing, though I’m not so sure.
Photo Credit: Alex Evans