Gig Review: Theory of a Deadman / Amongst Liars – O2 Ritz, Manchester (26th September 2023)

It’s hard to believe that Theory of a Deadman have been around since 2001 and that I have been a fan of the band for around 15 years, yet due to many different factors, tonight will be the first time that I finally get to see them live.

Amongst Liars (c) Jack Barker

After a nightmare drive from Yorkshire, we arrived at the venue just in time to catch opening at Amongst Liars who despite some technical issues did a fantastic job of warming up the crowd for tonight’s headline act. The issues began even before the band could start the opening track “Black Days”, with the lead guitarist’s equipment refusing to work. After a few minutes of the band’s guitar tech frantically testing equipment, the pedal board was removed from the stage with the guitar being plugged directly into the amp. With a huge cheer from the crowd as the sound of the guitar blasted through the speakers, the show could finally start.

It’s obvious that the whole band loved being on stage, delivering a very confident if slightly short set. With their seven song setlist, the crowd while a little quiet at times seemed to be taking the time to stand and watch the performance. It was clear during “Drown” that guitarist Leo Burdett was a lot more restricted than normal. He couldn’t quite get as close to the audience as he wanted thanks to being tied by the amp lead that fixed the earlier technical issues. We also spotted the very dedicated guitar tech from earlier leaning over the amp holding the cable in place to prevent any further issues.

With a quick “Who’s looking forward to Theory?” Vocalist Ian George got a huge cheer from the audience prior to the final few tracks of the of the set “By Design” and “Wolf Machine”. While it was apparent that many in the audience may not have heard of Amongst Liars before (like myself), judging by the cheers and applause at the end of their set, they have definitely found some new fans this evening.

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After having a sing-along to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, my first thought as Theory of a Deadman emerged from behind the drum kit was “I bet he’s a bit warm wearing that,” referring to lead vocalist Tyler Connolly’s knee length coat. The band kicked off their set with their first single and the title track of their recent album Dinosaur which the crowd very much approved of with the majority raising their phones in the air recording. With a couple of crowd favourites, “The Bitch Came Back” and “Blow”, the party was in full swing.

Theory Of A Dead Man (c) Jack Barker

Connolly did his standard move during “Blow” as he took his phone out to record the crowd singing along. Finally disappearing to the side of the stage to remove the massive coat, Connolly returned with possibly one of the shiniest guitars I’ve ever seen for another new track, a rework of the 1980 Bill Withers classic “Just The Two Of Us” which has gone from being a nice love song to become a definite breakup song. The breakup song theme continued for the next track “Not Meant To Be”. For someone getting married in less than a month, it was at this point I realised how many Theory of a Deadman songs would be inappropriate for the wedding playlist!

With “Lowlife”, one of the band’s more upbeat songs, the crowd had another chance to jump along raising their hands whenever they were instructed to do so by Connolly. The band then slowed things down for a few tracks with “Santa Monica” and a keyboard being brought on stage for Connolly to play during “Wicked Game” and “Straight Jacket”. While the pace may have slowed slightly the enthusiasm of the crowd didn’t waver, as when Connolly teased the first few notes of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” on the keyboard, the entire audience sang the whole first verse.

Connolly took the opportunity to discuss the band’s charity work with a portion of ticket sales being donated to charity for several years. He mentioned several of the charities that had been supported in the past, but that money was currently going to a domestic abuse charity, before dedicating “History of Violence” to said charity.

Theory Of A Dead Man (c) Jack Barker

Squeezing in a few more snippets of covers including Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” and Oasis’ “Wonderwall”, the band closed out the main part of the set with the now classic “Hate My Life”, prior to which Connolly joked that we’ve all had bad days, like, “When you go to Tesco Express and they have no chicken and stuffing sandwiches or prawn cocktail crisps”, an oddly specific (however amusing) example. It was apparent that despite not quite being a sell out crowd this evening, everyone in the room was a huge Theory Of a Deadman fan singing along to every song, no matter which of the band’s now eight studio albums they come from.

As the band left the stage, it was clear that they would soon be back for an encore, but having already played so many of their hits already, the question was what tracks would they end the evening with? The answer soon came in the form of a two-track encore which included “Rx Medicate” and “Bad Girlfriend”, and a few more short covers which included Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Tenn Spirit”. Before leaving the stage Connolly thanked everyone for coming and mentioned the band’s merch available at the side of the stage, which included their very own Deadman’s Brew coffee. Being a huge fan of both the band and coffee, this was something I would have liked to have tried, but at £30 for a bag of coffee, that might have to wait until payday.

This was an amazing evening of music which was more of a greatest hits setlist that a tour in support of their latest album. The sheer amount of covers also kept the crowd guessing what the band would play next. With mention of the band filming a documentary about their career through the years, this is something we are definitely looking forward to seeing.

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Photos by Jack Barker

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