Battersea Arts Centre was witness to a stirring night of alternative rock and acoustic anthems on Wednesday night. Manchester band MONEY, fresh off the success of their 2016 album Suicide Songs, came to South West London in high spirits, mixing the imposing with the amusing.
The grand, ornate ballroom that housed the show was offset slightly by what looked like a giant white bedsheet at the back, which serves as a decent image for MONEY themselves. Often discussing dark, complicated and serious subjects in their music, they deal with it in an offhand, often slightly amused style, throwing the comic bedsheet in front of the delicate matters they deal with.
In his first performance for some months, supporting act Sivu, aka James Page, set an assured tone in his playing, though finding himself a little lost for words in between songs. The audience forgave his understandably nervy chat, as his onstage persona shifted immediately when the guitar began to strum. Though only supporting his pure, smooth tones with an acoustic guitar, Sivu’s songs and performing style feel larger than they are – with a simple but full guitar part, you are made to feel as though you’re watching something complete. The sparse beauty of ‘Better Man Than He’ brought the chattering crowd to near silence, and received rapturous applause when coming to a close.
Before beginning, MONEY lead singer Jamie Lee shuffled out, reading a poem by former American Poet Laureate Billy Collins, in a move that was both improvised and jokey in equal measure. When struggling to find the right page, Lee commented: “This is just so me. Winging it all the way to the end.” By contrast, when they all congregated onstage, MONEY looked anything but unprepared.
Their set comprised of stark contrasts, bringing together two albums made up of different sounds, but both sounds each had an anthemic quality to it. Material from debut album The Shadow Of Heaven filled the room with accented bass and held string chords, with MONEY becoming an indie band on high; second album Suicide Songs brought a much more interactive feel to proceedings, with the acoustic guitar dominating, and strings having a more melodic contribution. It mixed the thrills of a punchy, powerful live band with the hums and drones of an ethereal atmosphere, sometimes generating sounds similar to that of early U2.
Lee’s vocal performance is another example of the mixture of musical worlds. His chest voice, grinding over the top of all supporting him, was rasping in its texture, and almost feeling like a tired roar during the thumping rendition of ‘Letter To Yesterday’. When hitting the heights, however, Lee’s falsetto is angelic in its quality, bringing yet more beatific symbols to the performance. Ballad ‘You Look Like a Sad Painting on Both Sides of the Sky’ saw all sides of Lee’s vocal range, holding a swaying audience spellbound. Other favourites included the short ‘Suicide Song’, and the rousing alternative festive number ‘A Cocaine Christmas And An Alcoholic’s New Year’ sent the crowd home happy.
Though the Battersea spectators may have felt a little hard done by not to have heard a fitting performance of ‘Goodnight London’, they can have little else to complain about. Though they deal with issues as tough as drug addiction, sexual identity and suicide in their songs, MONEY have carved out a career and back catalogue of anthems, which can’t fail to raise the heartrate of any that watch them.