The Boxer Rebellion’s performance at The Deaf Institute in Manchester almost immediately follows the release of their new album, Ocean by Ocean, and this gig gives their audience the chance to experience their new songs in what is, most likely, the best way possible. The album cover alone, far brighter than the darker images on their previous albums, hints at the direction that Ocean by Ocean has taken the band in, and their newer material electrifies the performance.
They open with ‘Keep Me Close’, and their music instantly surrounds the audience, filling the venue with the gloriously ethereal sound of the sombre background contrasted with Nathan Nicholson’s falsetto. Moving on from their new songs, they return to old favourites, all of which are well-received – much like the entirety of their set, such as ‘Always’, ‘Diamonds’ and ‘New York’. ‘Always’ is still wonderfully energetic, and ‘New York’, which creates a passionate response from the simplest refrain, is also sublime. Another highlight of the evening is ‘Weapon’, the song to which Nicholson attributes the shaping the sound of Ocean by Ocean; it is not hard to see why, and, as a colourful but inescapably retro step into the future, it’s well deserving of its early release as one of the album’s new singles. Equally, their performance of ‘Big Ideas’ is superb, although it also benefits from its release in March which means that many of the audience members are able to recognise it. It is less subdued than some of the band’s older songs and yet it doesn’t suffer for this at all; it’s a potent reminder of the band’s talent, and the contrast between this and ‘Spitting Fire’, as well as ‘Semi-Automatic’ (both more aggressive performances), reminds the audience of how far The Boxer Rebellion have come.
As they move, almost imperceptibly, into ‘The Gospel of Goro Adachi’ to finish, they fit together seamlessly, like they have all night; there’s no question that even with the departure of former guitarist Todd Howe, The Boxer Rebellion are still as unified as before — and if we’re lucky, they will continue to go from strength to strength in the future.
By Yasmin Asif