Manchester Academy

Saturday night being [b]Muzik[/b] night, things are unusual for a start...

Saturday night being Muzik night, things are unusual for a start. And that’s before we mention that it’s also Mercury Prize night – what with former champions [a]Reprazent[/a] making their live return and this year’s nominee MJ Cole turning in opening night performances. It’s also birthday night – ten years to the day since the Buzzcocks threw open the doors of the quasi-legendary Manchester Academy.

For a venue that has carved a reputation as a halfway house for soon to be massive (indie) bands, it’s a brave move to mark the occasion. But with giant mobile phones in the corners and people rapping in the toilets, incongruous doesn’t even start to cover it.

Compared to Roni Size, MJ Cole‘s garage-soul is embryonic but promising. Elisabeth Troy lifts potential anthems like ‘Crazy Love’ and ‘Sincere’ – but Cole is actually stronger when he loosens up from 2-Step and shows off his Motown chartbusters.

So it’s left to [a]Reprazent[/a] to blow the roof off the place. Obviously. Aggressive, meticulous, chrome-plated – the Mercury curse looks in this case only to have given them strength. Tonight sees Roni expand Reprazent, less by spreading their wings but by prising them apart with a giant hydraulic crane.

‘Dynamite’ is rapturous, vomiting forth every poised rhyme like a beat warrior, and the beats, to give them their due, sound nothing like they’re from Bristol, they sound like they’re from space.

And so such old reliable wonders as ‘Brown Paper Bag’ and ‘Heroes’ are invested with a new energy – fuelled by Size and Krust‘s rejuvenated way with the soul. It’s something that also permeates the material from new record ‘In The Mode’ – to think these people had been written off by puritans as coffee-table blandness says more about an unwillingness to – in Size‘s words – “let the music travel”. Who told you you could do it like that? Perhaps nobody. And there’s what’s beautiful.