World-renowned Austrian musician Manu Delago has started something global. His solo career began back in 2007 when a YouTube upload of him playing the Hang drum became the all-time most popular video of its kind. He then went on to tour the world with legendary Icelandic singer Björk, attracting rich praise for his dynamic style.
Tonight (Wednesday 29 March), he arrives back in Brighton, the home of his record label TruThoughts, for an intimate gig at The Hope and Ruin. Students and pensioners alike file into the venue to take in this universally fascinating show.
Warming up is the magically surreal and sensory Eva Bowan, who transforms the sparsely-filled room into a bubble of all-encompassing noise and raw feeling. The much softer Pete Josef then takes the mic, captivating a growing audience with his silky-soft voice and impressive, almost improvised keyboard and beatbox loops.
Then, Manu steps up to the stage and the whole place changes. He plays with the kind of calm energy which is so rare to see, making his Hang drum sing in a manner which is both seemingly effortless and profoundly vivid. Gripping and sophisticated though his performance is, he manages to avoid self-indulgence, giving back to his audience with every beat.
Colourful visuals – which are connected to the instruments – adorn the wall behind Manu and his team. Like the sounds, they are constantly growing and evolving, telling us tales of long journeys, big dreams, and lost loves.
On stage, Manu is cool, calm, and collected – but his music speaks to our emotive primal side. Extended passages of tempo-shifting melodies captivate the whole room; the audience stands wide-eyed and locked into this musical experience. Brash, grating sounds mimicking a raging thunderstorm are gorgeously offset by beautifully quiet Hang moments; solace during an unforgettable storm of sound.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get more blissfully relaxing during a delicate yet upbeat rendition of Freeze, a heavy tension hangs in the air from the second Snow Screen begins. The show is undoubtedly a refreshing journey; Manu and the Handmade crew lead us across diverse sound worlds. We visit barren ice-fields and stroll through sunny cities before settling down to rest in a cosy mountainside tent. In short, the world-renowned Hang player couldn’t have selected a more apt title for his 2017 album than Metromonk – the sound of the setlist wanders and cannot be pinned down.
This is more than just a gig, we realise – Manu’s carefully selected musicians, along with the visuals, transform the performance into something which surpasses the level of sound. It can only be described as an immersion for the senses, made all the more intense by the layout of the Hope and Ruin’s all-black live music venue.
All too soon, the three-hour show comes to a close and we leave in a cloud of bliss. Although it is 11 pm on a weeknight, the atmosphere is one of soft yet powerful regeneration and focused energy. This is a show unlike anything we have ever witnessed before – one not to be missed.
Manu will be touring the UK until 6 April before setting off on a European tour on 19 April. For full tour details, visit his website.
We also had the pleasure of interviewing Manu prior to this gig, so click here to read our Q&A with this talented gentleman.