Gig review: Disclosure @ Manchester Apollo

After a rollercoaster rise to fame that has seen Disclosure bring their synth pop-laced house hits to thousands, the unstoppable pair finally bring their tour to Manchester.

Guy and Howard Lawrence are met by a packed, youthful crowd of eager fans for their first of two nights at the Apollo in the penultimate dates of their whirlwind four-date UK tour.

The electronic duo’s much-anticipated debut LP Settle received both commercial and critical success in 2013, resulting in a sizeable breakthrough for the electronic duo from Surrey.

The scale of this surge in popularity is clearly evident as Howard introduces their closing song – dance-pop anthem Latch – with the opening vocal sample to the roaring delight of the teeming crowd.

This response demonstrates a certain energy that the majority of current dance acts, excluding the likes of Daft Punk, could seldom raise in their fans.

It is Disclosure’s musicality and songwriting dexterity that puts them apart from many of their electronic dance music (EDM) competitors.

Both of these features shine through in their live performance.

The Surrey siblings seamlessly combine live and electronic instrumentation, as both drum on hybrid kits and Guy provides live bass-lines on songs such as When A Fire Starts To Burn.

After the excitement of the opening songs: F For You and When A Fire Starts To Burn, the music starts to reach a steady tempo as Boiling draws to a close.

Guy once again displays his musical capability on the keyboard to introduce 2012 single Tenderly over an echoic shriek of a female soul singer, conjuring up early ‘90s acid-house.

The night is by no means short of sing-a-longs.

Chart hit You & Me invigorates the crowd, demonstrating once again the songwriting ability of the garage-house duo.

Sonically, they are hard to fault as warm, funk-splashed bass-lines balance artfully with ambient melodies that pierce through the mass of percussion.

However, as the song reaches its climactic chorus, it is difficult not to notice the distinct lack of a live vocalist.

Although no guest vocalists join the pair on stage during the set, the absence of recent collaborator Mary J. Blige is solved in F For You using projections.

After You & Me, the night takes a momentary turn towards monotony – a common pitfall in live house music, dragging through two of Settle’s more repetitive tracks Stimulation and Grab Her!.

At this point, it feels as if it could be almost be any DJ on stage.

Dancing in the crowd is at a critically low level and fans have begun to half-heartedly wave their hands blindly towards the stage.

Thankfully, the instantly-recognisable dance-riff of the hit single White Noise swings fans back into motion and Disclosure’s identity is regained.

It is not until Guy announces the final two songs that I feel they reach the height of their ambient powers.

The mid-tempo London Grammar collaboration Help Me Lose My Mind may not be the beats per minute-junkies’ favourite, but its delicate melodies, sung here by ‘The Face’ (Disclosure’s iconic logo), complement the warm, bouncing bass-line elegantly.

‘The Face’ looms over the stage one more time to play the role of Sam Smith on crowd-pleaser Latch, in a manner reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s famed robots.

It is clear that this identity is at the heart of the duo’s success and they make no secret of it during this performance.

This visual ploy, in conjunction with undeniable musicality, allows Disclosure to break away from the common ‘man-behind-a-mac’ theme that has weakened live EDM in recent years.

This is dance music with a ‘Face’.

Image courtesy of Disclosure HQ with thanks

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