Live Review: Drug Store Romeos // YES, Manchester

Dream-pop trio Drug Store Romeos take to the stage at YES Manchester, delivering a mesmerising, atmospheric set to a captivated audience.

The return of real life gigs is a relief to all after over a year of livestreams and postponements. For some artists, however, the socially distanced format is a challenge: half empty rooms and stationary spectators are most bands’ worst nightmare. But for Hampshire three-piece Drug Store Romeos, the intimate setting does not cause any issues. Playing the Pink Room of YES in front of a simple backdrop of shimmering veils and bathed in pastel lights, the band seem completely in their element.

Opening with minimalist instrumentals, Drug Store Romeos quickly draw the audience into their dream world, ending the first track with a whispered “thank you” before slipping into one of their most recent singles, ‘What’s On Your Mind’. The three of them navigate the tricky tempo changes together as if communicating in their own secret language, and Sarah’s airy vocals seem to pull the whole room into a trance.

At times, the band come across slightly tentative, tiptoeing through their new songs after so many months offstage — but they get away with it, as any hesitation adds to the overall quiet, understated atmosphere. Drug Store Romeos are not, and have never been, a loud and outgoing band. They are introverted, drawing the audience into their music rather than projecting outwards. It’s this that makes their set so hypnotic: layers of sound and drowsy rhythms envelope you, transporting you out of the venue and into the bedroom in which the songs where originally imagined.

Halfway through the set, the band launch into the ethereal ‘Frame of Reference’ — arguably their strongest song to date — with Sarah’s delicate vocals and deep, nostalgic organ synths merging to create a hazy swirl of sound. It is a joyful moment; the track was released back in February 2020, so neither the band nor their fans have had much of a chance to experience it live. The trio then give us a taste of their debut album The world within our bedrooms, due out on the 25th June. There’s a touch of Angel Olsen to their new material: it is retro and emotional, reminiscent of a bygone era with its drawn out, reverb-laden vocals and lazy instrumentals.

Towards the end of the night, the band move into more energetic territory, playing songs in the same vein as their 2020 single ‘Quotations For Locations’, carried by their bouncing synths and prominent bass. They close with their debut single, the dark and bewitching ‘Now You’re Moving’, draped in a cloak of moody lighting. It is a short and sweet set that leaves the audience wanting more. But after so many gig-free months, Drug Store Romeos’ music is like a comforting hug, welcoming people back and reminding us of the magic of live shows.

Author avatar
Fran Hall

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