Young Fathers are one of few genuinely unique musical prospects creating and touring right now. The Scottish group are a powerful force in their studio recordings, and their sheer talent, energy and showmanship makes for a truly unforgettable night in town.
Manchester Academy fills early. It’s Saturday night and there is a show on in each of the venue’s rooms. The student bar is rammed, as is pretty much every boozer up and down Oxford Road. There is a distinct feeling of freedom and opportunity in the air that only Saturday night can muster. Before the headliners, Geordie singer-songwriter Nadine Shah plays a blinding career-spanning set.
Shah is on remarkable form, with a tight live band performing a short set of cuts from across her career. The cuts from 2020’s Kitchen Sink are superb, ‘Buckfast’, ‘Ladies for Babies (Goats For Love)’ and ‘Club Cougar’ are some of Shah’s best work, and the eager crowd fully buy into her performance wholeheartedly.
She saunters about the stage in a black body suit, strutting to the beat, as her jet-black ponytail swings with each forceful stride. New tune, ‘Topless Mother’ is a real standout, and Shah’s new music is a seriously exciting prospect.
The Scottish trio emerge to rapturous applause: their reputation, Mercury nods (two noms and one gong), stellar studio output and raucous live shows precede them. The crowd is in fine voice already, and as Young Fathers launch into ‘Shoot Me Down’ from their latest studio offering, Heavy Heavy, the excitable Academy reaches a cacoughenous fever pitch.
‘GET UP’ and ‘Wow’ follow suit, before the group launches into something new. On the setlist as ‘Holy Moly’ the new cut is upbeat and groovy, distinctly Young Fathers, but nuance is lost amongst the nose.
The band are on imperious form, and they march around, throwing themselves about the stage. Alloysious Massaquoi is perpetually grabbing some percussion, which he uses for intermittent tracks. It’s a regulation floor tom with an attached splash cymbal, which Massaquoi takes pleasure in rhythmically beating the shit out of.
Kayus Bankole is the livewire of the group, throwing dramatic shapes and charging about the stage. His energy is unmatched, and it seems he and the crowd feed off each other, egging the other on to push it further. The crowd are entranced by Young Fathers, and they gleefully dance and bounce with abandon.
Graham Hastings cuts a more solitary figure amongst the rhythmic chaos, clad in a trenchcoat, he delivers his lines hanging off his own mic-stand. The group are backed with a guitarist, percussionist and two fabulous backing singers who bring the whole thing together, a Young Fathers show is much more than a run-of-the-mill gig. It’s a soul-enriching party.
‘Only God Knows‘ and ‘Geronimo‘ are high points in a set of high points, before Hastings urges quiet. He calls for a ceasefire in the Middle East, which is met with cries of “free Palestine” from the Manchester crowd. The band are unashamed in their support of Palestine, and as thousands marched for the same cause on Manchester’s streets mere hours earlier, the feeling in the city is mutual.
‘I Saw’ brings the house down, and the band announced that they “don’t fuck around with encores” as they launch straight into ‘Toy’ and Bankole flys into the crowd, joining the mosh as chaos reigns.
This is truly exceptional, and Young Fathers will be headlining major festivals before too long.
Photo credit: Stephen Roe