Mayra Orchestra

Hoxton Underbelly, London

4 October 2019

I very rarely go to concerts "on spec". Though I do go to a lot of gigs, I don't see that many bands, and the ones I do see are the ones where I can be confident I will come out feeling it was the best concert I have ever seen. Otherwise, what is the point?

Six hours ago I didn't know Mayra Orchestra existed. Then someone I know shared a fifty-second clip of the band, and I was interested enough to think it might be worth going along on spec. Because, by great coincidence, they were playing in London that evening, and I was on my way to London at that very moment, with no plans for the evening...

I've never been in the Underbelly before. It's not a bad venue, a decent size, a loud PA, well laid out, and with comfy chairs. The promoter had ambitiously crammed five bands into the evening, with the result that Mayra Orchestra (on last) had five minutes to set up and sound check, and only played 50 minutes before they hit the curfew.

Mayra Orchestra has seven members, three of them singing and most of them playing multiple instruments. Given that, it's a massive credit to the band and the sound person that they came out sounding as good as they did after a five-minute sound check. They sound loud, powerful, amplified to just the right level to let you know this is a rock band despite the unusual instrumentation. It wasn't perfectly balanced, but it was good enough to tell me this is an amazing live band.

So, what do they sound like? Well, they have seven members, three of them singing and most of them playing multiple instruments. I count around 20 instruments on stage. They include piano, twin guitars, cello, trumpets, glockenspiels. One song has a glockenspiel duet! How prog is that? Their songs are mostly fairly short, but range from upbeat poppy numbers to dark soundscapes to borderline heavy metal riffing. But always beautifully melodic, and full of catchy hooks. There's no lead instrument as such; every part of the band seems to contribute equally. I'm not going to even attempt a set list, I've forgotten most of the titles already. They're a Dutch band, but the lyrics are English, and the lead singer has the vague sound of a more powerful Stevie Nicks. Though at one point I had the feeling that Muse might be an influence. But really I'm struggling for comparisons because I'm struggling to explain exactly what their sound is like, apart from the vague generalisation of "melodic modern prog".

They don't really sound like any other band I know. But they sound spectacular.

I really want to see them in a proper hall with a properly balanced sound, where I think they would be phenomenal. I think they could become my new favourite band.

I bought all their CDs without even thinking twice.

Best concert I have ever seen.