Gig Review: Starset / Sick Joy – Manchester Academy (11th Feb 2020)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I do like it when people turn up to see the support band(s). Entering Manchester Academy 2 to at least a half full venue, I noticed the diversity in the crowd. From full goth, to bright cheery colours, to simple casual attire, everyone came together for one reason… a demonstration from the Starset society.

Sick Joy (c) Jack Barker

Being the only support band, Sick Joy made a very prompt start to the evening, taking the stage and heading straight into their first few songs. Although their grunge genre is very different to Starset’s electronic hard rock, once the crowd had woken up, it was clear that they were enjoying the set. The trio from Bristol were all very confident on stage, although lead singer and guitarist Mykl Barton was a man of few words throughout the set (apart from the lyrics of course). “Vibe Sucker” off the band’s new EP Them Days definitely had some unusual lyrics, however heads were nodding along. Throughout the breakdowns in most of the songs, you could really see how in sync the trio are when performing together. Leaving the stage with a quick “See Ya” the band received a loud cheer from the crowd.

When entering the venue, you were given The Horizon; Quarterly Publication on behalf of the Starset Society. I have to say, I have never been to a gig and been given a leaflet so in depth that I’ve actually kept it.

As soon as the room went dark, there was a massive cheer from the crowd as the intro video began. Opening with “Manifest”, one of the singles from their latest album Divisions, you could tell that Starset were ready to put on an impressive show, and they definitely didn’t disappoint. I’ve seen the band 3 times now, and each time they seem to get better and better.

Starset (c) Jack Barker

Throughout the set, there were pauses for videos from Lara from the Starset Society, really emphasising the fictional backstory of the band. (I won’t go into too much detail. The fans will already know…and those who are new, go learn!). Lead vocalist Dustin Bates took a break to ask “How many of you found us with the first album Transmissions?” and basically the whole room screamed. The setlist for the night was very well balanced between their three albums. As soon as “Ricochet” began, the cameras positioned around the stage began to show on the screens, giving the crowd alternative views.

A few songs later, Bates stated “Manchester, if I remember, you guys like the heavy shit”, which from every gig I’ve been to in Manchester, is certainly correct. “Telekinetic” definitely got the crowd moving, with part of the chorus being sung in alternative turns between them and Bates. Something I wasn’t expecting was a Led Zeppelin cover. Bates announced that they very rarely do covers, however this particular song, “Kashmir”, was one his first examples of ‘cinematic’ rock.

There was a 5 minute pause in the set with another Starset Society video. Some of the crowd seemed to get slightly impatient and others used it as a good excuse for a cigarette break… but when the band returned to the stage in new outfits, after a loud 10 second countdown, the room’s attention was back on them. With a quick “Welcome to part 2” they began “Carnivore”, to which Bates didn’t even need to sing the crowd were so long. Hard to believe the song is 6 years old.

The final song of the night was one the entire crowd had been waiting for, “Demons”, arguably their biggest hit. It actually shocks me how they weren’t playing a bigger Manchester venue, considering the London gig is a venue twice the size on Thursday evening! Perhaps next time they return to Manchester is will be in the main Academy venue next door.

Photos by Jack Barker Photography

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