Live Review: Elder - Gorilla, Manchester
12th November 2023
Support: Slomosa, Steak
Words: Matthew Williams
Photos: Jacob Schwar
This was my first visit to Gorilla, a venue housed in the railway arches in Manchester, and it was already packed before the first band played a note. And this tour deserved to be playing to a full house, as the line up was stacked with quality from start to finish.
First up, were London based fuzz rock/stoner groove band Steak. I reviewed their latest album 'Acute Mania' last year, so was eagerly awaiting their performance, as they are a smorgasbord of different musical styles, but oh boy, did they sound better live than on record. It felt heavier, with a slow brooding start, 'Wolves' bathed in blue light, such a powerful, emotive song, with a great mid-section riff.
With the Crystal Head song 'Perfect Weirdo' being thrown into the set, it added to the immense start of the set, before singer Kip announces a new song, which was a big song, all atmospheric with the anthemic “let’s get it on”. But then the highlight of their set for me, 'Last Days', is such a hypnotic, melodic song, but tinged with that fuzzy guitar sound. This set the tone for the final part of the set, which was just mesmerising and full of heavy riffs, brilliant drumming and cool bass lines. Finishing with 'Ancestors' and the sheer epicness of 'Overthrow' they set the bar for the evening.
This was a pivotal evening for Norwegian band Slomosa, as it was their last night of the tour, so they promised to give it all they had for us in Manchester. And wow, did they do just that. With a bass sound from Marie Moe that reverberated around the venue, they set about with a slow, steady build up leading into 'Estonia'. The vocal didn’t sound quite right to begin with but by the time 'Scavengers' and the epic 'Cabin Fever' had hit out, they sounded a lot better, with the crowd getting steadily involved, and their immense power coming through loud and clear.
“Let’s play a happy song” declares vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Berdous, before they kick into 'In My Mind’s Desert' which was delivered sumptuously, and is such a brilliant song, but that was overshadowed by 'There is Nothing New Under The Sun', was I felt privileged to watch live, as the riff is indeed king, and the crowd lap it up. With a blistering drum intro, 'Kevin' is ripped into and the band all start going a bit crazy on stage, and they dedicate their last song to both their driver and sound technician before 'Horses' blasts across the PA, with Berdous on his knees halfway through the song, to crown what was an absolutely stunning set. They leave to rapturous applause from the masses.
And then we come to Elder, the five piece American rock band from Massachusetts, who open up their set with the wonderful 'Catastasis', the blue and pink lighting working well with the smoky haze that drifts across the stage, to create the atmosphere that this brilliant song deserves. They are giving off that famed psychedelic vibe that they are renowned for, and the keyboards are high in the mix, with the vocals being significantly lower, and not coming across too well.
The whole performance sometimes comes across as one big live jam session, such is the way that the band play, so at ease with each other, and we are treated to such brilliant songs such as 'Lore' and 'Embers'. The songs are full of passion and it’s a real joy to watch these live for the first time. The songs are beautiful, mesmeric, intoxicating, and really draw the crowd into the immersive performance.
As well as their classic hard rock, stoner riffs, I love the psychedelic, prog elements that the keyboards bring, even though throughout most of the gig, from my lofty position at the back, you can barely see Michael Risberg through the smoke, but when he gets going , you can see him bouncing on his seat as he plays.
There isn’t much talking from lead singer Nick DiSalvo, as he lets the music do the talking, but he dedicates the final two songs to Slomosa, before they deliver 'Gemini' and 'Sanctuary' with the fabulous sight of a crowd all nodding their heads simultaneously along to the delightfully crafted songs, having witnessed a masterclass from a truly wonderful band.
At the end I found myself feeling elated, yet tinged with sadness, that the night was over, as I had just witnessed one of the best gigs of the year, as all three bands were utterly amazing and I ran out of superlatives to use for them.