Off to see Vintage Trouble live at the O2 Ritz Manchester
In a previous article, I had introduced the troublemakers, the fans of the US Rythm and Blues band Vintage Trouble (aka VT). They are an exceptional bunch that form a family tighten by the most dynamic bond of love and music (and love of music). It is one those fans who introduce me to the band’s music and gave me the unique opportunity to partake in one of the most dynamic, fun and moving experience I have ever had at a concert.
I went up the stairs to tower the scene of troublemakers gathering at the O2 Ritz to see the Vintage Trouble foursome positively rock their world. A few minutes before, Manchester was in all her greys, raining hell, cleaning up the way to a band full of pure positive energy and an audience ready to partake in that share. The queue seemed to not have an end as I went from being at its back to fronting an even longer one.
In the middle of all that, the last thing you’d expect is Ty, the bands frontman running through the ranks, hand up, ready for a serial fiver down the line. I managed to miss it unlike the rest of the queue even in all its busy-ness. All I had to offer in my candid reaction was the open eyes and mouth of a new and startled troublemaker. Even if it were the first time he did it, the audience knew their band. Anything can happen at a Vintage Trouble concert, even in the queue! It seems that the show starts way before the show starts!
Laurence Jones supporting Vintage Trouble live at the O2 Ritz Manchester
The numbers were growing by the minute on the ground floor where most people had gathered just in front of the stage. It was a sight to see the numbers growing as all sorts of Rhythm and blues and rock music played in the background, warming up the atmosphere for the upcoming show.
Before we knew it, it was time for the support act. To my surprise, the Vintage Trouble lead singer Ty came in too. How awesome must it be though, for a support act to have Ty introduce your act in such complimentary words, I thought. And that is how Mr Jones started. And did it rock the place from the outset, all that with just two band members!
I have not been in a concert like that in a long time, if ever. At some point, the drummer needed his drums re-tighten, this is how much of their all the band was giving. The band did not stop one moment, not even the drums, even as an assistant, a man out of place, ran in to do the fixing the drums kept on. The crowd at first static started moving, each gradually finding their pace.
The third song was barely quieter but brought in a sense of commemoration with the dedication to Manchester victims. One love. An invitation to clap to the song midway added to it its candid charm. Keep on loving you was the song for the job. A change of guitar and an invitation to cheer Vintage Trouble, the band that got us all here, met with an enthusiastic response. It seemed I too found my pace. Or maybe it was just the song. The melody is not one of those familiar-sounding ones but it has a positively original weirdness to it or maybe it’s the bass that is vibrating through me. Guitar solos have a bite and attitude and are just the right length to not get boring. By now, there’s no more stopping my movements.
An air of reggae follows the introduction of the two accompanying musicians. The change of pieces within the song have something sexy in their performance. Me like. I’m no longer just writing. My head is dancing. The guitars are really doing a beautiful job on this. Yes, Mr Jones, to answer your question, we are feeling the music. The song transition into Marley’s I shot the sheriff. The Manchester crowd echoes the Marley song and Mr Jones dances to the crowd singing I shot the sheriff before going back into his own song.
A virtual encore brings another song. With this one, if you are not taken by the verses, the lift that takes you to the chorus suffices to change your mind. And the crowd sings “hey, hey” like a question and answer to the song at chosen moments prompted by the singer but still as if they had rehearsed the song with him. “Yeah Manchester, live it up!” he cries. And the crowd is invited to echo some “oohs”, doing just so. Energy and fun. The gratefulness of the band to the response of the crowd was evident with every stretch of the song to the delight of the audience. Yes, that was an appropiate introduction to the (Vintage) Trouble to come.
Getting into Trouble
The band left the stage, which is taken over by a local crew for a new do. Their whole movement of taking away one band’s instruof removing everything and replacing it made me think. I was never a fan of to much crowd but one must recognise the beauty of getting together as one. For Manchester, my adoptive city that keeps teaching me, it was a wonderful act of defiance, of life, as important as her mourning her loss.
You soon realise that a starter is just that. You truly need a few minutes to recuperate and get doubly ready for the main meal (and dessert). And thank goodness we did. Troublemakers know this better than anyone else. They know never to take their band for granted. One or the other of the band’s members sneaks pass to take photos of the audience generated some excited “oohs” but none reached the height of realising the whole group was finally coming on stage. Introduced by their new keyboardist, the sound of “nothing but a houndog” and the crowd cheering, the band come in, back to the audience. From then on, all happens relatively quickly, at least I felt that the experience rapidly sucks you in. Because the singer is now in and already he knows his crowd and singalogue (singing dialogue) with us.
The VT set started with “Total strangers” and troublemakers’ hums. Wow. The enthusiasm. The energy. The positivity. From the outset. The way the fans know how and when to respond. How do they manage not only to do that but also to not alienate a first timer? And the music grabs its vocalist by the guts and everyone is in, taken.
Before you know it, Ty’s in the crowd, to the excitement of the audience at hand. And back on stage again, chanting Manchester. Entertainment. Pure.
“Strike your light” I hear him say, then I see him clap then jump to the rhythm echoed by the crowd. “Glad to be back in Manchester”, he goes on. Where does he even find the breath? The suit had to come off. How they did they all stand those dark suits in the first place with all that energy coming off their performances?
I was not prepared for the next words. Come to think of it, I might have just decided to ignore the clear warning on their website:
“Live-wired, straight-shootin, dirty-mouth’d…”
and more. It was all there. They never pretended otherwise.
The next song is “Doin”. It takes it easy on the ears and the fragile energies yet it is probably the song I moved to the most thus far, barely unsettled by a quick unwelcome high pitch from the mic. The performance was a really groovy one, with an audience on whom you can always count to respond, answer, echo, cannon, groove, move.
“Is everyone there ready to get more wet than moist?” VT frontman now asks and confirms that the band’s name “V Trouble” is not a euphemism.
One Love Manchester
Then he starts singing “love song” and I no longer think at this point and by now that my head is going to stop moving.
A smile escapes my face in spite of me to the voice from the stage revealing “I love Manchester, rain and all.” There is more to come with a beautiful dedication to the victims of the Manchester tragic explosion and their families: ” We are in this room together in the name of Love, in the name of Music on their behalf to celebrate tomorrow”. The song the band then proceeds to sing is Battle’s end. Ty goes into the crowd again and back on stage, singing with a defiant manchester, fist in the air thumping to Battle’s end.
But this is not it for a band that stands for love and music. They brought a bucket to collect money for Manchester and Ty continues to sing, holding the bucket through the crowd. The energy this man must have. He sings and holds a bucket that gets heavier and heavier as the crowd accumulates donations and does not stop. Amidst this showcase of love and dedication, his voice rise and it seems that of Manchester with it. Beautiful.
The crowd then joins him, lights on the phone, singing, and that beautiful moment touches everyone everyone, as the singer turns around to hide the emotion of the moment. You know by now that the band is going to move on, like the dynamic ensemble they are, not wanting to dwell too much on the pain. He thanks the crowd for the donations, grabs a trombone and surfs his voice on the groovy wave of an organ-like high-pitch sound and the beat of the drums, on what is definitely my favourite song, “Sorry”. The vocalist treats the highs as preciously as every other note and then plays the trombone for a bit. I was wondering where he got all that breath from even before he added this instrument and now I think I should ask him about his diet!
Dance time and a new kind shall tinkle the audience as VT starts “Rollin” and we can’t indeed stop rollin. For the first time, I realised there are videos on the side of the band playing some images and in this case, the screen is showing thundering clouds and lightening, which adds to the atmosphere created by the song. I went back to completely forgetting about them, after that glance, for another good while. If a performance can distract you so from the screen, there is definitely some loving medicine in that offer.
“Don’t stop forever” is described in many ways incuding the dirtiest lyrics. So in spite of a great tune, I have to agree: No playing on tadio show then, as I was hoping when I heard the sounds. I am still flabbagastered about how effortlessly, the singer alternates between singing and playing the trombone. With this band in charge, there is no shortage of entertainment, so it is hard to dwell on frills.
This is especially true as they get to “Crystal clarity”. I immediately loved the out-of-this-worldliness of this song accentuated by the gyitar layer in spite of the relative straightforwardness of the sound. I loved its delivery and the way that Ty makes it sound flowingly effortless. The trombone joins the guitar and claps can only but follow. What we have there is a great vocalist who does not defect even with the energy drained by his dynamic performance and his trombone playing.
“Let’s surround ourselves with positive energy” Ty encourages their troublemakers. “Do I hear you say Run, … Run like…”
“Run like the river” starts with those words teased to the audience and Ty running across the stage to follow the wave he requests. A guitar intro, hand clapping, and Ty’s back into the crowd, has the crowd chanting “Run baby Run”. Somewhere on some lost wall, the words “Crowd surfing is not allowed” hide in shame. How could they not? The troublemakers are here and the main trouble, the Vintage trouble too, most of all. It happened under an ovation and a half.
Ty then proceed to introduce the band: on keys and vocals, the newcomer Bryan is a great addition; Rick is on the bass (and backing vocals), Richard on the drums (and backing vocals), and Nalle of course on the guitar or as Ty calls it the get down tar (and backing vocals). A footage of Mohammad Ali is in the background as Ty speaks about gratitude thanking us for our time, faces and energy before moving on to a song with one of those mean drums that vibrates directly with my heart.
That was going to be the last song as the band had thanked us and left the stage but an encore was in order. The screaming voices of fans called for it and the song became my new favourite song of the night. And although it spokes of feeling heavier, it had a reverse psychological effect, maybe with the help of this situation of togetherness, positive energy, unconditional giving and free expression, all felt lighter, mirroring the dynamic jumps of the band’s frontman. “Nobody told me”
“Blues” after another Manchester chant and I suddenly met with the song that made me realise my back was not just one block. This was the perfect song to end wit, summing up the evening. An electrifying performance that woke up bits and pieces of your body and soul that you had forgotten existed.