Ex Hex @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester, 25 May
Mary Timony's power-pop trio fall flat in Manchester
When they released their second record back in March, it was very much a case of business as usual for Ex Hex. The power-pop trio – led by cult indie guitar hero Mary Timony – offered up a refreshingly effervescent paean to the likes of The Runaways and Cheap Trick when they put out their debut full-length Rips in 2014, and this year’s It’s Real continued very much in the same vein – meaty riffs, racing percussion and maddeningly catchy hooks all remained order of the day.
It’s strange, then, that there’s something palpably subdued about their third appearance in Manchester tonight; they’re playing to an almost-full Deaf Institute after stops at Soup Kitchen and the lately-departed Ruby Lounge four years ago. Given that the setlist leans almost as heavily on Rips as it does It’s Real, there should be plenty of the punch and dynamism that we saw when the three-piece were touring it last time, but instead, there’s something weirdly thin about the guitars on How You Got That Girl, whilst Don’t Wanna Lose lacks the fizz of its studio counterpart.
The crowd, in fairness, are also strangely quiet, and even when it feels like the band strike gold – however fleetingly – there isn’t a great deal in the way of response to the slide guitar-driven Radiate, or to an endearingly ramshackle run through Radio On to open the encore. Chalk it up to an off-night or perhaps early-tour rust – tonight’s show came at the top of a hefty European run – but for whatever reason, Ex Hex lacked their usual crackle.