Only The Poets take over Deaf Institute, 29/10/23

If there is one stick, live music is beaten within the modern age, it’s that everyone is only there to get their moment ‘for the gram’. The phones come out and people watch events unfold on their tiny screens, a sea of faces illuminated in the darkness, disconnected from the wonders playing out in front of them if they could only avert their eyes and enjoy the moment.

It is a thought that briefly crosses my mind as I enter the Deaf Institute on a wet Sunday evening and see phones are already in hand, but tonight I needn’t have worried. The snug arena is already buzzing in anticipation for the appearance of Only The Poets, fresh off the back from touring with Louis Tomlinson, performing on the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading & Leeds and a ridiculous number of streams of their infectious brand of indie pop, this latest leg of their sold-out tour is proof they are a band in the ascendency and they are taking everyone along on the journey.

Opening with ‘Crash’, a turbocharged earworm that evolves like a sonic powered Pokémon in a live setting thanks to the raw energy and power projected by the band from the small stage, I quickly realise this is different gravy (we are in the north). Yes the phones are out, but the sea of dimly lit faces are not the often criticised still pool, it’s a raging torrent of motion. The floor is bouncing, the walls reverberate with lyrics being screamed back in time.

There is no disconnect here between the band and its audience. It is one cohesive entity that ebbs and flows through each tightly performed, perfectly packaged two-and-a-half minutes of power pop. Songs like ‘Even Hell’, ‘Forget Your Name’ ‘Nana’s House’ and ‘Stolen Bikes’ pass through like tender morsels of conveyor belt sushi. Just as one tune has gone, another is right there to fill the space it left and everyone is gorging themselves on it.

We enter the endgame, kicking off with clear crowd favourites ‘Every Song I Ever Wrote’, ‘Over & Over’ and newest track ‘Looking At You’ before smashing into ‘Jump!’ where the whole crowd (and I mean everyone) sits fervently on the floor through the first verse and bridge before exploding to their feet when the chorus kicks in. It’s a sight that feels like it should be replayed in slow motion and in the highest definition with Sir David Attenborough narrating, trying to explain this strange but awe-inspiring behaviour.

Only The Poets close with the aptly named ‘Emotional’ a song, much like many of those that came before it, are destined to fill much bigger venues than tonight’s. As I leave the hot cauldron they created and retire to the wet Manchester streets, I wander through the exiting crowd and notice that strangely now the phones are nowhere to be seen. No one is posting in silence to invisible faces, I pick up sound bites of conversations as I weave through the throng, “They are incredible live”. “What was your favourite track?” “I love how they opened the show”. This is a band that creates conversation, face-to-face interactions and shared experiences. Those extra dopamine hits make us all truly fall in love with music.

In an ever-disconnected world, Only The Poets are building bridges and long may that continue.

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