Review: Above & Beyond dominate The Warehouse Project during Anjunabeats takeover
Whisper it quietly… But away from the glamour of the Las Vegas super-clubs, and VIP bottle service of Ibiza’s most glitzy venues, a new clubbing experience continues to rise among party goers worldwide. ‘The Warehouse Rave’ is not a particularly new concept, some of the filthiest parties of the early 90s acid house scene were started in legendary Manchester venue The Hacienda. So it seems only fitting, that almost three decades years later, this half blue/half red City, steeped in culture, plays host to a dance music experience coming full circle.
The Warehouse Project, is – by definition – an institution in UK clubbing history, hosting many of the biggest names and legendary performances since 2006, but this year, a venue change saw the old WHP home of ‘Store Street’, a dingy basement under Manchester Piccadilly‘s train station – a bustling metropolitan hub for commuters to one of Northern England’s busiest hotspots – ditched, in favour of the Mayfield Depot. As the name suggests, the gargantuan structure – situated a stone’s throw away from Store Street – formerly played home to the train carriages of Piccadilly Station – and offers the first-time visitor the same awe-inspiring jaw-drop moment of amazement upon entry.
Combining cathedral-esque high ceilings with a rocky concrete flooring, and mysterious trails of water spread across random parts of the venue – truffled in by muddy footprints – the Mayfield Depot offers party goers a true taste of the rustic clubbing experience that was a firm feature of the pre-Instagram boom, offering a generation spawned by the world of social media gratification the oh-so-rare opportunity to taste a ‘real rave’. With that in mind, there are surely no acts in the global scene right now that can send fans on such a mind-bending musical experience – clad with sensational laser shows and singalong anthems – than trance trio Above & Beyond. Bringing their Anjunabeats label to the WHP for their annual celebration, the Group Therapy giants were joined by an eclectic billing made up of several firm Anjunafamily favourites.
The first of these – Dutch duo Tinlicker – have rocketed meteorically over the past 12 months, on account of their slick melodic sounds. Working through a tracklist which featured many of the biggest hits of 2019’s stellar ‘This Is Not Our Universe’ album, the fitting finale of Tinlicker’s ‘Breezeblocks’ remix proved one of the evening’s first truly rapturous moments, preceding a unique Gabriel & Dresden X Trance Wax b2b. With temperatures in the City made famous by iconic acts such as Oasis now dipping to sub-zero levels, party goers – devoid of the same ‘Sunsheeeiinnne’ Liam Gallagher so famously sneered about – were soon warmed up with the rich sounds of the monstrous Cosmic Gate remix of ‘Only Road‘ heating the inner cockles of the crowd, who, by this point, had their fingers outstretched in pure euphoria as a sea of aloft arms filled the warehouse.
For many Anjunabeats fans in attendance, one of the evening’s most eagerly anticipated sets was marked by the arrival of Scottish prog maestro Grum, who had channeled his inner-Prydz on November album ‘Deep State’ to craft one of the most mesmerising productions of recent years. Packing in 60 minutes of his own track and edits, the producer later stated that crowds in the North of the UK are “the best in the world” and on this form, it’s tough to disagree, as the rabid ravers bounced gleefully to every drop, with Grum perfectly balancing the contrast between the dark of his ‘Altered State’ with the more light, prog-style of set closer ‘Stay’.
And so, as the clock struck midnight, through the depths of the darkness emerged the instantly recognisable silhouette of Jono Grant, and the smaller figure – complete with trademark neckerchief – of Tony McGuinness. Above & Beyond were in the building, and their arrival on stage was – predictably – met with an almighty roar from front to back inside the now humid conditions of the warehouse. With Paavo choosing to sit this one out, the Tony/Jono combo had recently produced one of the most scintillating A&B performances in recent years at Dreamstate last week, and carried on in the same rich vein of form, as their purple patch heralded opener ‘Hideaway’, in addition to the club mix of ‘Always‘, ‘Sticky Fingers‘, and recent release ‘Another Angel’.
Shying away from their often emotional style in favour of a more explosive opening, the duo soon started to work touches of the melancholic into the set, with Common Ground favourite ‘Bittersweet & Blue‘ sandwiched between the inspirational ‘Peace of Mind’ from 2015’s ‘We Are All We Need’ album, and ultimate tear-jerker ‘Little Something’. But despite A&B’s pedigree in the studio, it’s often said that the very best DJs can read the crowd of a vibe perfectly, and so the duo proved themselves as Kings for the day here too, first dropping the atmospheric Mat Zo rumbler ‘The Next Chapter‘ (also aired during their ABGT350 show in Prague), before unleashing the seismic ‘Sun & Moon’ for that iconic ‘Push The Button’ moment, and tapping into the hearts of the thousands in attendance by reminding us that there’s ‘A Thing Called Love’.
With Oliver Smith, and the thunderous tones of Genix closing out the evening – with the vast majority of the WHP crowd still going strong at 4am – the Anjunabeats takeover of Manchester‘s Warehouse Project not only proved a seminal moment on the 2019 dance music calendar, but also marked a cement-like strength to the label’s Mayfield Depot debut. Regularly proving themselves as leaders of the one of the world’s finest imprints, Above & Beyond will return to the UK in 2020, with all eyes of the ‘Anjunafamily’ now eagerly awaiting the next announcement from their multi-skilled heroes.