Transformer 2 – Albert Hall, Manchester, UK (28th October 2017)

It took large numbers of people by surprise when it was announced that the original one day festival would have to be downsized from a dozen to just three acts and moved from Victoria Warehouse to the Albert Hall due to poor ticket sales, especially after the success of the first event held earlier in the year. To make matters worse, there were more unhappy punters when it was announced that two of the three acts that were carried forward to the new line-up would only be given 30-minute slots each. However, any gripes or fears that this would be another ATP-like disaster were quickly put to rest once Transformer 2 got underway.

Formed by guitar playing brothers Michael and John Gibbons, Bardo Pond have been around for almost three decades. Despite being a personal favourites of artists such as Thurston Moore, Loud Reed and Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai (whom Bardo Pond have toured alongside in the past), the influential, hallucinogen-inspired five-piece have largely remained a cult band since they came out of Philly’s ‘Psychedelphia’ movement of the early 1990s. Since then they’ve put out around thirty albums, with their latest being 2017’s ‘Under the Pines’.

Bringing their mellow blend of space and noise rock with shoegaze and a heavy dose of psychedelia to Manchester for the first time in over a decade, the 30-minute set time and the nature of their music meant that they were limited to just three songs. Even with being unable to fully stretch out, the ATP regulars more than made the best of their opportunity to play in one of the city’s most stunning venues with a short but sweet performance that was very well received by fans and newcomers alike.

Although the majority of those in attendance were probably there for the headline act, Liars did everything possible to steal the show with one of the finest 30-minute performances you’re likely to see. Now effectively a solo project of a scruffy, pink wedding dress wearing Angus Andrew after co-founder Aaron Hemphill’s amicable departure earlier this year, vocalist Andrew has continued the Liars tradition of constant change on their eighth full-length album ‘TFCF’.

Primarily comprised of material from the four albums Liars have released during the 2010’s, their set was fast and furious in the best possible way, with barely a second to catch your breath between each track. An experimental punk band at their core, it was this side which was mainly on show at the Albert Hall. From the noise rock of ‘Scarecrows on a Killer Slant’ and the quiet-loud style of ‘Scissors’, to the industrial techno of ‘Cred Woes’ and  ‘Mess on a Mission’, if you didn’t know who Liars were before Transformer 2 then you certainly do now.

The anticipation had been building for what felt like an eternity as the eight members of Montreal’s instrumental collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor slowly and quietly made their way on to the stage. Starting with a cellist (who doubled up as a bassist) and a violist, they were soon joined by the rest of the band as they began to play ‘Luciferian Towers’ in its entirety accompanied by a large projector screen playing a variety of film loops above them. Their latest album may have been met with some mixed reviews since it was released, but it’s incredible to hear the whole thing played live. From the epic ‘Bosses Hang’ to ‘Anthem For No State’ with its Ennio Morricone/Spaghetti Western-inspired main riff, it was a truly unforgettable experience.

But for large numbers of the 2000-plus crowd in attendance, almost two hours of Godspeed seemed to be a little too much, with growing sections of the audience becoming a little restless and distracted during a softer, more meandering second half. Performances of older pieces such as ‘Sleep’ from their most critically acclaimed album ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven’ and ‘BBF3’ from ‘Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada’ were partly spoiled by chatter, checking of social media and, in what may be a first for a Godspeed show, a scuffle breaking out between two blokes, presumably over personal space. Thanks a bunch, you pair of plonkers.