As the band leave the stage amongst the sound of feedback and applause, and the crowd begins to slowly filter out of the venue, there is a collective feeling that it’s good to be back. This is certainly the impression that radiates from the stage. Aquilo are bouncing off the back of a 4-year break from live gigs, and their return was a spectacle worth waiting for.
Lead singer Tom Higham’s voice soars over the slow building orchestral sound. Rolling drums lead through to a large crescendo with a sudden finish met by cheers from the crowd.
Dramatic sound-scape synths, dream-pop vocals that build to bouncy instrumentals filled with The 1975-style muted guitar riffs are the sounds of this evening. It becomes clear as the set develops that the duo have worked hard to ensure their sound translates smoothly from studio to stage. And, as co-frontman Ben Fletcher reminisces on their last – and disastrous – gig in Cape Town, it becomes clear just how much Aquilo are enjoying being back on the stage. However, you wouldn’t guess that they’d ever been away.
The dynamic between the two frontmen is established and well-balanced. The pair are animated yet composed. Higham sings, Fletcher leads the conversation with the crowd, and the two harmonise with mid-range falsettos that suck the air out of the room during the more delicate parts of the show. As the set reaches its mid-point, Fletcher pauses to open up about the writing process behind the new album.
Seamlessly, the band crash into the new hit ‘Out in LA’. The crowd are lifted as they chant the hook back to the band through the chorus. The song translates well live and is a set highlight, bringing an LA sound not dissimilar to the likes of Rex Orange County. It’s the perfect representation of a band revitalised.
Although comfortable from the beginning, the duo visibly settles into the gig as it moves along to a gentler conclusion with the likes of ‘Stupid not to try’ and ‘I wanna see you smile’ from the new album making an appearance. As the lights shimmering over the crowd turn to strobe with a crashing end, the band reluctantly leave the stage smiling and the crowd leave the venue, also smiling.
Listen to Aquilo here:aquilo / Gig / Manchester / review