Live Music + Gig Reviews

English Teacher @ Gorilla, Manchester

24 May 2024

Acclaimed Leeds outfit switch between the intimate and explosive in an evening of rapturous moments

English Teacher (Photo: Denmarc Creary)

English Teacher (Photo: Denmarc Creary)

Hometown shows tend to be the most magical, and although English Teacher are from Leeds, they clearly have a special connection to the culture and the people of Manchester. 

When their already-iconic frontwoman Lily Fontaine said that the venue – Gorilla, Manchester – was where she used to go to gigs when she was younger, she was met with rapturous applause. When she said that Manchester was the best city in the world, it threatened to take the steel roof off (despite it clearly being hyperbole, because she was going to Birmingham the following night so was just practicing that line for then…)

It was an evening of rapturous moments, but there was nothing more magical than when, deep in the set, they pulled out a cover of The Smiths‘ Bigmouth Strikes Again and an already-raucuous room seemed to sing along to every word.

They played the entirety of their debut album, This Could Be Texas (sadly, none of their earlier material appeared) and even finished the show with their customary cover of LCD Soundsystem‘s  New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down. The fact that the band appeared like seasoned veterans and worked the crowd like they’ve been doing it for decades, the stark reminder that they only have one album out was important. Before that LCD cover, Fontaine playfully said that they were resorting to a cover for the encore because they’d run out of songs. 

They played a truly tender Broken Biscuits, a triumphant R&B, and a truly heartbreaking Not Everybody Gets To Go To Space (which they referred to as their political song, preceded by a scathing attack on Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party).

They played a muscular The Best Tears Of Your Life, a delicate Mastermind Specialism and an exceptional Nearly Daffodils (their best song). This ability to code-switch between intimate and explosive is becoming their signature, and they’re equally powerful in both modes. It’s no wonder they’ve been compared to Black Country, New Road and Dry Cleaning – but in truth they have something that neither of those bands has – Lily Fontaine.

Where Isaac Wood and Florence Shaw are both masters of detachment (and exceptional, exceptional lyricists), Fontaine is an open book, and imbues her songs with clear, autobiographical emotional intensity that means you can’t help but connect to her on a different level. She’s magic.

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More on English Teacher
English Teacher @ Gorilla, Manchester
English Teacher – This Could Be Texas