THE MULTI-talented, versatile Canadian band, Walk off the Earth, came to Manchester Academy on Friday night. Quays News entertainment reporter Joe Canavan was there to watch it …

Fresh from shaking off jet lag in Birmingham the previous evening, the five-piece group brought fun, energy and vigour, thrilling a roaring crowd inside the Oxford Rd venue on their second European date of the “Sing It All Away” tour.

Warming up the growing crowd as the solo supporting act, was another Canadian – singer-songwriter Scott Helman. The baby faced 20-year-old confidently strode onto the stage to the delight of the teenage girls towards the front of the stage, and opened his mini-set with “That Sweater”, a track which didn’t appeal to me in the slightest, and I wasn’t the only one as loud chatter began to hum through the building and people made their way towards the bar.

To paraphrase an old saying “you should not judge a warm-up act by his first song” and this was certainly true in the case of Helman. His second song “Cry Cry Cry” a track from his debut EP “Augusta”, out later this month, was a completely different kettle of fish, a catchy and rather upbeat number that was delivered with consummate ease. This one could be a huge hit.

The likeable Helman engaged with the crowd in between songs, thanking Walk off the Earth for the opportunity to tour with them and joking that he loved England as he could legally drink here, unlike in America.

He finished his largely impressive 25 minute set with “Bungalow” and it was at this point I started to see slight similarities to Ed Sheeran. He clearly has a long, long way to go before hitting those heights, but Helman has potential in bucket loads. It will be very interesting to how he progresses over the next couple of years.

The crowd were now eagerly anticipating the main event, but technical issues meant we were left waiting almost an hour between the departure of Helman from the stage, and the arrival of WotE. When Sarah Blackwood, Gianni Nicassio, Ryan Marshall, Mike “beard guy” Taylor and Joel Cassidy did appear, it was to much relief from the adoring Manchester crowd.

WotE were eager to make up for lost time and we didn’t have to wait long for the first cover of the night in “Happy”. Like many I find the overplayed Pharrell Williams song kind of jarring these days but it was brought to life via a plethora of different instruments from these talented musicians, including a trumpet solo from the band’s funny man Mike “Beard guy” Taylor. After this, Sarah, one of three lead singers in the band, gave a humble apology to the crowd for the late start to the show.

Next came “Rule the world” this wasn’t a Take That cover, but rather a single, off the recently released “Sing It All Away” album. This is a proper anthem and was delivered with bags of energy as Blackwood worked the stage. It was followed up with a rather cool track “Hold on”, a clear favourite with the fans as the atmosphere stepped up a notch or two in the room. The eighth song of the night was a cover of Madonna’s “Material Girl”, Blackwood really shone in this modern rendition of a classic 80’s song.

A few tracks later, the highlight of the night as Scott Helman came back out onto the stage and joined the rest of WotE around the Harpejji (a new hybrid musical instrument which combines piano instinct with guitar soul) as they covered The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”. Helman starred as he hit the high notes with aplomb in this brilliant arrangement, with the crowd loving every second of it.

Though Blackwood stood out as the star of the show, it was the turn of another WotE member to stand out, as the popular Ryan Marshall impressed singing lead vocals during “sing it all away” a song that had been teased all night and most certainly lived up to the billing.

As the crowd patiently waited for an encore, it was their turn to belt out “Sing It All Away” in a moment that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, the whole crowd in a wave of euphoria showed how much they were engrossed by the vibe WotE had brought to the Academy.

At this stage we had already seen flying instruments, pyrotechnics and ticker tape galore, so I was eager to see the grand finale.

A big Academy selfie, followed a rousing rendition of “Red Hands” and then, unsurprisingly, came the cover that shot them to viral fame and gained over 127 million hits in 4 months, Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used to know”. But also unsurprisingly WotE weren’t going to settle for simply re-enacting that, they instead produced a spectacular four song medley with all five band members playing the one guitar.

The show ended on a high with the beautiful and mellow “Summer Vibe” given an uptempo twist (and added balloons) to send everybody out into the Manchester night with a smile on their face and a skip in their step.

From must see YouTube videos, to a must see live band – all hail Walk off the Earth!

By: Joe Canavan

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