The evening was kicked off with a massive dose of déjà vu as Toseland returned to the Manchester Academy 2 stage having only performed here a little over a month ago when supporting Skid Row. Tonight’s setlist was almost identical to the month before although with a slightly longer set they were able to squeeze in two extra songs. The set starting with “Puppet On A Chain” and “Living In A Moment” performed back to back followed by a short break for vocalist James Toseland to talk to the crowd during which he mentioned the same feeling of déjà vu and thanked Theory’s management for bringing them along to a number of dates on the tour. Although he then went on to question how they picked the dates as they had seemed to plump for the ones at the furthest ends of the country!
There was also a quick mention of the band’s new record contract and that a new album would be coming soon which seemed to go down well with the audience as a cheer erupted. The set continued with the brilliant “Life Is Beautiful” before proceedings were slowed down a little and a keyboard was brought on stage for “Fingers Burnt”. Toseland kept the keyboard for the next song but upped the tempo as they continued straight into “Renegade”.
“Too Close To Call” and “Crash Landing” were the additions to the setlist from the previous month and “Crash Landing” in particular went down very well with the audience, receiving a huge cheer at the end. Toseland invited fans to come and meet the band at the merch stand after the set but also warned them that he wouldn’t be there for too long as he would be coming back to watch Theory. The set was ended with “Hearts & Bones” which saw guitarist Zurab Melua take centre stage for an epic guitar solo and got the crowd properly warmed up with many of them singing along and clapping in time to the music.
Despite the apparent name change from Theory Of A Deadman to just Theory and a slightly different, more pop sound on their most recent album Wake Up Call, the fans eagerly awaited their arrival on stage. As Tyler Connolly and the rest of the band entered there were huge cheers from the audience before the band began the set with “Lowlife”. As soon as the first song had finished, snippets of news broadcasts featuring stories about the Kardashians and Kanye West were played through the speakers. It was clear that “Blow”, the band’s dig at celebrity status and modern life was up next. This was followed by one of the band’s best breakup songs, “The Bitch Came Back”, with lyrics which suggest that Connolly has had a bit of trouble with an ex in the past.
Having followed the rules of a traditional Theory Of A Deadman gig up until this point with three of the band’s classic songs it was time for something a little different. As Connolly sat at the keyboard that had been to his left since the start of the set, he announced “This is new, right?” before beginning to play “Echoes” from their latest album. The next few songs featured a mix of Connolly swapping between guitar and keyboard while they dived into their back catalogue to play “All Or Nothing” and, after a quick chat to the crowd about music helping you get through the day, they played the now classic song “Santa Monica”. This was followed by Theory’s own version of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”.
With the rest of the band leaving the stage, only Joey Dandeneau on the drum podium remained. He began a mighty drum solo with a huge thud of the bass, playing for a couple of minutes along with an impressive light show and the performance only stopped for Dandeneau to soak up the applause for the audience.
The rest of the band returned to the stage to perform the haunting “Drown”, during which all the spotlights on the band faded out and were replaced by a sea of red lights from the back of the stage. After a brief chat about the band being from Canada and Connolly’s mother’s love for Coronation Street, the band played another song off the latest album, “Straight Jacket”, followed by “Not Meant To Be” during which the crowd were given the opportunity to sing the chorus, and then “Angel”.
The band then reminisced about the previous times they have been to Manchester and told a story about staying in a hotel down the road from the venue that was apparently haunted. Connolly turned the conversation to sport, asking the audience “City or United?” which got an equal amount of cheers and boos. Being Canadian and talking about sport they inevitably moved onto ice hockey and the fact that their team hadn’t made the playoffs this year. This led into a conversation about bad days and that they have a perfect song for this before beginning to play one of the band’s most well-known songs, “Hate My Life”. During this song the crowd were singing along the loudest they had all evening, especially for the line “Put your middle fingers up in the air, go on and say fuck you” which also led to every middle finger in the venue being raised.
As soon as Theory left the stage there were chants of “We want more”, clapping and foot stamping which made the room rumble and then an almighty cheer when the band returned to play the first single off the latest album, “RX (Medicate)”. The song features some thought-provoking lyrics about depression and substance abuse. The crowd made their feelings known about drug use by screaming the words “Too bad that shit don’t work though” to the band when the microphone was pointed towards them.
After a quick jam and singalong session to Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” the band thanked Toseland for helping them out the past few nights before promising to come back soon. They mentioned that they have previously played in Manchester with Black Stone Cherry and Alter Bridge, perhaps hinting at an upcoming tour? They ended the evening with one final song, “Bad Girlfriend”, which the audience had been saving some energy for – apparent from the mad bouncing from beginning to end!
Photos by Jack Barker Photography