CocoRosie. Manchester Cathedral. May 7th.
CocoRosie could melt your heart in a second. Sisters Bianca (‘Coco’) and Sierra (‘Rosie’) flaunt a fascinating tale of disconnected parents and a separate upbringing, meaning that Sierra grew up training opera in Paris while Bianca chased hip-hop and visual arts in New York. In 2003 the girls reunited in Paris, spending the following couple of months trapped in Sierra’s bedroom making a quirky lo-fi record which would later be released as La Maison de Mon Reve. Now on their fourth album, CocoRosie have selected the unconventional location of Manchester cathedral, and they are about to show the world how to mix oil and water.
The cathedral is initially transformed into a dark 1980s nightmare as support act Lights Asylum perform some sort of fusion between a Casio keyboard drum machine and Nina Simone. Ideally suited to a more intimate venue, Lights Asylum lose their potential magic amongst the stained glass windows and open space, leaving the audience feeling somewhat tentative.
A harp is carted onto an empty stage and the aura of CocoRosie can already be anticipated. The band generate electrical waves through every single body in the building as they make an understated entrance, with Sierra, Bianca and their two male accomplices all sporting the loveliest facial glitter reminiscent of early 1970s David Bowie.
Any uncertainty regarding the building’s acoustics is instantly dissolved as CocoRosie’s classically trained Sierra opens up in perfect pitch, even behind a distorted microphone, with the aptly selected ‘God Has A Voice, She Speaks Through Me’. Bianca is lying on the floor, waiting for favourites such as ‘Black Rainbow’ and ‘By Your Side’ to show up in the assorted set-list so she can show off her distinctive acapella sound. It seems that their trademark clash of kindergarten vs. opera will indeed be nourished onstage, completed by an array of obscure instrumental features. CocoRosie have scrapped a conventional drum kit in favour of a human beat-box and a duct-taped rhythm cart, Sierra nurtures a hand-powered harmonium to accentuate her flawless soprano, Bianca makes use of a penny whistle and a clarinet - Manchester cathedral is bearing the gift of the most artistic circus you could ever wish to encounter.
Sierra and Bianca’s cultural differences are at the forefront of this musical demonstration, resulting in a spiritual and occasionally chilling destruction of performance conventions. And just when you think it can’t possibly get any more bizzarre, they do a cover of Kevin Little ft. Sean Paul’s ‘Turn Me On’ in absolute CocoRosie character, proving that their sophisticated and melancholy art is in fact far from scholarly. Like a real life Disneyanimation, CocoRosie have the ability make you weep and love and dance all at once.