The start of this UK Tour came full with promise for Arcane Roots. As a band continuously striving to be better – write better riffs, better choruses, explore new sounds and be better musicians – a chance to reimagine their songs electronically and bring them to a live setting is everything that Arcane Roots are about.
However, the massive elephant in the corner of the room is that this is the start of their (seemingly) last ever tour. The announcement came last month that the trio were “taking on new long-term projects” and, essentially, Arcane Roots would soon be no more. The news came as a shock for many and the calls for a more fitting farewell show were dismissed. So the final chances to see Arcane Roots started with this: an evening of electronic reworking of their tracks.
Having rerecorded three alternative versions of tracks from their inspired second album ‘Melancholia Hymns’, Roots opened the set joined by Emily Denton for ‘Better Me (Over)’ and ‘Matter (Revel)’ both taken from the ‘Landslide’ EP.
The crowd inside Manchester’s Gorilla didn’t seem to know how to respond to the spacey opener or the moodier second track except giving quiet appreciation. At that point, it seemed like it was going to be a long night. It seemed to be the sort of reaction the band expected and had anticipated when announcing these shows and so softened the tone with an acoustic performance of ‘Belief’.
The stripped version of the track set the tone for the night as the band began to ebb and flow from the sprawling soundscapes of ‘Indigo’ and ‘Fireflies’ to stripped rarities like ‘Leaving’ and ‘Winters Wept’. A special throwback to Roots’ first EP ‘Left Fire’ came with Emily Denton and Andrew Groves duetting on ‘Rouen’.
The frontman had described the show previously as, “the first show of the scariest few weeks of my life” and he reiterated the fear as the played their latest (final) single ‘Landslide’ with the sort of emphatic brilliance that Arcane Roots always manage to achieve when stepping into the unknown. The night was then quickly brought to a close with a final, synth-driven, rendition of ‘Off The Floor (Fade)’.
On the surface, it was an insight to the devotion Arcane Roots have for pushing their boundaries. But, for a band with only a few shows remaining, it was relatively unassuming. Only once towards the end of the set did Andrew tease, “we’re all going on to more things so stick around” but there was certainly nothing “final” about this performance.
In the end, for a band with no limitations, the final test was to try and constrain themselves to an electronic performance and it worked brilliantly. In many ways, it felt more intimate and like we learned more about Arcane Roots – as people, as a band – but the answers weren’t to the questions being asked.
Words by Alexander Bradley