Vintage Caravan, Empyre – Manchester Academy 3 – 30th October 2022
It’s been eighteen months since we had The Vintage Caravan’s Monuments album. It’s time to finally celebrate the ‘album launch’ and tour in the same type of catch-up that most bands have faced over the last couple of years.
Not surprisingly tonight, Monuments gets a thorough plugging. Whispers and Crystallized get well and truly pumped out in the opening sequence and combined with the fact that ‘The Caravan’ has built such a strong legacy means they can throw in a bunch of the ‘newer’ numbers early doors whilst pulling from Arrival, Gateways and Voyage to provide a seamless journey through their body of work.
What’s striking, aside from Óskar Ágústsson’s particularly bold choice of a pair of striped strides and spotted silk shirt (which to be fair is as appropriate a fashion statement can be to match their thumping retro Hard Rock) is that it’s loud! Very loud and very full; more so than three guys have a right to be. Mind, they’re bursting with an energy that comes from an electrically charged set that rarely gives a chance to catch a bretah. Even when they offer to slow things down a little with Innerverse that follows a pulsating opening flurry, the pastoral guitar passage doesn’t outstay its welcome before the pace picks up once more.
Alex on bass is a eclectic presence. One moment smiling shyly at familiar faces at the front, the next, grimacing and emitting a menacing aura that seems to come with shouldering the responsibility of providing the bottom end. Pairing him in a scrap with The Stranglers karate bass man Jean Jacques Burnel, would be an interesting bout. Meanwhile, as Stefán Stefánsson simply smiles away while pounding away at an impossibly frugal drumkit, Óskar remains the focal point multitasking in delivering the lyrics while managing to pull off a powerful barrage of riffs and solos where he steps up on the monitors, tosses his hair back and throws the arch-backed shapes that cause the less flexible amongst us to grimace.
Together they form a power trio of the old school yet with an eye on what’s happening on the scene. Their dense Heavy Rock with a passion for rushes of psychedelia is tempered and balanced out with the likes of On The Run and particularly Hell which displays some of a Ghost sheen. The pop sensibilities might be the gateway for new fans into a world mainly inhabited by monsters like the Expand Your Mind freak out that precedes the gentle outro of Clarity that offers a comedown as the set finale.
Before ‘The Caravan’ arrived for the penultimate date on their UK tour, the end of a lengthy jaunt which began with them supporting Opeth before setting out ontheir own headline package, we witnessed one of the best support bands we’ve seen in some time.
There’s a humble self-depreciation about Empyre – apparently, they’re not used to applause or people having a good time at an Empyre show…or, heaven forbid, calls for more, but they’re going to have to start getting used to it. Giving a plug for the imminent new album on the Kscope label (and they certainly know their stuff) which is now available preorder with the title track Relentless already available for sampling, they impressed with a set that showcased a broad and sophisticated musical palette. The guitar textures add a diverse touch to the Hard Rock essence – maybe how The Edge might fit into a rock-based template.
Yes, they even did the new song, plus another teaser named Parasite that fits neatly alongside the Self Aware material. For many, it might have been the first chance to hear the likes of My Bad and the bold and brooding Stone, the latter with the “feed the worst in me – know the pain in me” chorus/plea grinding out. Rock music played with passion, intelligence and with a nouse for creating sounds that deviate from the norm, it’s the towering Homegrown that stands out; the acoustic flavour of the opening half crunching into gear with a filthy and muscular riff with enough fuel to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
The huge juggernaut power of Homegrown alone would surely be enough to guarantee a queue forming at the tills to get more familiar with Empyre’s music before Relentless appears. New Republic ends the set with a juddering bounce – Pearl Jamming with the fat trimmed – and we indulge in a touch of shameless chest swelling pride having witnessed proof of why we always make sure we see the support band.
Categories: Live Reviews