As myself and photographer Phil descended upon the Ritz to enjoy an evening of old school grunge courtesy of Mudhoney, we did not realise what a wonderfully varied and musically diverse show it would turn out to be thanks to the two support acts.
First onstage was Seattle-based singer-songwriter Barton Carroll, who warmed the crowd up nicely with his acoustic act, delivered with authenticity and warmth. The songs on offer were folky and engaging, complimented by genuine vocal talent, and Carroll interacted with the crowd like a pro, with a bit of friendly banter thrown in here and there. Towards the end of the set he was briefly joined on stage by Steve Turner of Mudhoney, for a thoroughly enjoyable country duet.
Home-grown psychedelic folk outfit Wolf People were up next and immediately turned the rock factor up a notch, delivering some seriously head nodding, foot tapping tunes. The band played flawlessly together like old pros, feeding off each other really well and clearly enjoying themselves on stage, there was definitely a lot of chemistry within the band. The vibes were genuine and it felt like a bit of a flashback to the 1970s. Despite the relatively young age of the band (all the members are in their 30s), they did a good job of nailing the sound they were going for and pulling off an entertaining performance for the clearly impressed crowd.
Of course the night really belonged to Seattle rock veterans Mudhoney, who came onstage to an extremely enthusiastic response by the assembled crowd of grunge fans old and young alike. Opening with Suck You Dry and keeping the energy levels high from the word go right up to the end of the set, they delivered a fine selection of their trademark gritty yet catchy numbers which had everyone in the Ritz singing along. Newer tracks such as I Like It Small slotted in perfectly alongside older classics like Touch Me I’m Sick, the early grunge anthem from all the way back in 1988. This and the band’s many other well-known songs like Hate The Police and Sweet Young Thing (Ain’t Sweet No More) were met with fervor amongst the crowd, putting the infamous “bouncy floor” of the Ritz to the test.
Overall the setlist was nicely varied with some slower, bluesey songs thrown into the mix as well, and the band themselves were tight, sounding strong and looking confident, their almost three decades of experience showing through. As the show progressed so did the intensity on stage, especially with vocalist Mark Arm who was going all out by the end and was an absolute pleasure to watch. This energy fed into the crowd who enthusiastically called for an encore when the band went offstage – the set was then brought to a satisfying end with In ‘n’ Out of Grace, leaving the room buzzing and the crowd happy.
All in all, an excellent performance from these grunge masters, who will hopefully grace our shores with their presence again soon. Definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys loud and energetic live shows of any kind. (And who doesn’t, really?)
MudhoneyThe Ritz, Manchester - 29th May 2015
Photographer: Phil Vidamour