Less Than Jake - Manchester Academy - 16.11.10

My first and only disappointment of the night? I miss Less Than Jake’s first support, We Are The Union, a much-hyped ska-punk band I’ve wanted to see for quite some time now. However, I am assured that they give a very good performance tonight, and am determined to catch them again at some point.

The good news is that I am in fact on time for Zebrahead, a group of absolute nutters from Orange County who play a curious and totally unique mix of energetic, anthemic pop-punk and rap. Their live shows are practically stuff of legend, and tonight they come complete with demands for the biggest “square-pit” in history, requests for every person in the venue to sit down until they’re told to jump right up in the air during one song, a guy doing some rude things whilst dressed as a tiger, and a questionable song about the female anatomy (complete with some co-ordinated hand actions). This is all amazing fun in itself, but I feel it’s important at this point to mention that Zebrahead are also a genuinely good live band with some spectacular songs. Highlights of their thankfully lengthy set tonight include ‘Anthem’, ‘Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right, But Three Rights Make a Left’, and a ridiculously fun cover of Britney Spears’ ‘Oops! I Did It Again’.

Truth time – I’ve never been Less Than Jake’s biggest fan, mostly due to the fact that I had never previously given their music a proper listen, instead considering it a form of background music for house parties. And oh my word, how very wrong I was. Tonight they are absolutely astounding. The band perform hit after hit after hit, stopping only for a brief but hilarious drinking contest between a guy from the audience who is quickly dubbed “Jesus” (because of his impressive facial hair) and one of Less Than Jake’s crewmembers. Oh, and they take a couple of minutes to attempt to smoke a joint thrown on stage by someone from deep within the crowd. But other than that, it’s all about the music for the Gainesville five-some.

Going strong since 1992, Less Than Jake have remained a staple within the ska-punk genre since their inception, and they have produced a stunning collection of albums and singles. The band’s two vocalists Chris and Roger complement each other perfectly, although I must state that Roger is without a doubt my personal favourite (which may or may not have something to do with me thinking he’s absolutely adorable). Having said that, I honestly, hand-on-heart cannot fault any of the band members’ performances tonight. And this is coming from someone whom previously did not care either way about Less Than Jake, which must surely give some indication of just how good a live band they are.

Sing-along crowd pleasers ‘The Science of Selling Yourself Short’, ‘The Ghosts of Me and You’ and a fabulous cover of the ‘Animaniacs’ theme tune work the mass of sweaty folk at the front of the venue into an absolute frenzy, and by the time the gig is over and done with I predict that not one person in the entire building has refrained from dancing like an absolute fool for the past hour or so. A phenomenal finale of ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ and ‘Look What Happened’ is a fitting end to one of the most flawless performances I’ve witnessed in quite some time, and I leave Manchester Academy battered, bruised, exhausted, and a total fan.

Ashley West


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