Sophie Seddon reviews the annual NME gig, which hailed the return of New Yorkers Interpol, and showcased new talent with Temples, Royal Blood and Circa Waves.
One of the most noticeable parts of the NME awards tour is the range of ages that you can spot in the crowd. From rowdy youths in college to the mid-50 year olds at the bar at the back, the gig is a rare gem in uniting all through new music. It is also pleasantly entertaining when observing the crowd while actually in it.
I arrived with my three guests in tow, and we went straight to the front, as the crowd usually is slightly limited for the first act. Among the guests was well-known Bristol gig goer, Jeff, whose thick blonde afro and enthusiastic dancing, has become famous among giggers round the city, particularly in the venue Start the Bus. His presence suddenly created a positive tone for the evening, knowing that his dancing would at least get everyone going.
The gig kicked off to a riotous start. Circa Waves, the opening act, had such enthusiasm for their music that this exuberance was echoed by the audience, and they received a warm welcome from the Bristol crowd. Their melodies are exciting, punchy, quick and unashamedly pop-punk. Like The Vaccines before them, the quartet have developed a fun set of guitar based pop tracks, including Zane Lowe’s recent Hottest Track in the World ‘Stuck In My Teeth’: a fast-paced enthralling guitar rush with a hard hitting beat that got even the oldies at the back tapping their feet. The repetitive lyrics were cooed with the soft, but feisty voice of Keiran, the singer, whose Liverpudlian accent resembles something of Paul McCartney, a comment my housemates agreed with. They were also a seriously good-looking group of guys. Clad in skinny jeans, jumpers, denim jackets, battered trainers and ear stretchers, they looked every bit the part of upcoming aces. You can see Radio One taking to them very nicely during the summer.
Following them, the crowd suddenly began to build. The next act, Brighton based Royal Blood, kicked off like a hurricane. As every drumbeat hit the floor and every note of the guitar sharply struck the neck, the heads of the audience swung forward, hair everywhere. Jeff was having a whale of a time, jumping about with his hands swaying in some weird motion. The beat was heavy, the volume apocalyptic, the guitar sharp and classically hardcore. Put simply, they were epic. The hype in the audience was infectious. The moment the duo strolled onto the stage, the performance as well as the music, was just awesome. They clearly were enjoying themselves as much as the audience was. It was made even more entertaining when the singer simply stated ‘Let me introduce you to the rest of the band- this is Ben!’
It was unfortunate that Temples had to follow this. After the sheer power of dynamic Royal Blood duo, the quartet’s psychedelic guitar seemed to dwindle. They were undeniably cool, the singer James’ hair unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and Thomas, Sam and Adam all looking like they were from the Ramones. My housemate remarked as they swaggered onto the stage, ‘I feel like I’ve had a heavy night on the gin, and woken up in the seventies.’
It appeared this was the feeling amongst most of the crowd. There was indeed a chatter of intrigue as they entered. You can’t say they don’t have exceptional stage presence. But the beginning few tracks of their set was tough. The audience’s heavy head shaking had turned into mild foot tapping. My guest’s faces went from smiles to slight boredom. Even Jeff’s dancing had gone from ecstatic jumping to a slightly subdued sway. It was at this point that I realized how the arrangement of the gig should have been different.
Albeit, Temples contributed an original genre of music, and it was actually a chilled, soothing music that you can have a sway to. But following two acts where the crowd were dancing like loons, it felt as though the mood had dropped, like a bomb. In all fairness to the group, track ‘Move With the Season’ began to pick things up again, and ‘Mesmerise’ finally got the crowd into moving a bit. Jeff began to return to dancing, so they finally won everyone over. But just not quite to the same extent. Maybe it was the singer’s hair that did it. The dim blue light on the stage made it seem like it had a life of its own. It was an inspiring do. In fact, I even saw an elder woman upstairs sporting a similar look. Looking somewhat like a mix between Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell and The Horrors’ Faris Badwan, James had a good look, but sadly lacked the charisma that the previous frontmen held with the crowd- a noticeable lack of humour.
Finally, after three hours, Interpol finally took the stage. As true veterans of the music business, they took to the stage like Gods. The smoke machines were slowly drifting over the crowd as they glided on. There was a massive sense of unity in their performance, perhaps firstly in their dress code: they were all in smart shirts and shoes, particularly guitarist Daniel who was clad in a full suit. The audience hung off every line. From start to finish, they had you’re full attention and the audience did not stop moving. An incredible moshpit formed, with teenagers and adults alike crashing together with the smooth strum of the guitars, and the melodic keyboard. A strange waft of cannabis began to rise (much to our amusement, the security guards at the front noticed this and spent the next half an hour trying to find the culprits). As soon as ‘The Heinrich Maneuver’ began, the crowd was electric. ‘Evil’ and ‘Slow Hands’ garnered much cheers. You would not have even thought for a second that this crowd had been there three hours.
The entire set was bold and a force to be reckoned with. A much awaited encore included ‘Lights’ and ‘Stella Was a Driver, and She Was Always Down’, which seemed a fitting end- not wanting to hype the audience up too much that they’d be left wanting more, but enough to leave an electric gig on a high.
They also showcased new tracks for their upcoming fifth album later this year. ‘My Desire’, ‘All the Rage Back Home’ and ‘Anywhere’ were delights for the audience as they caught a glimpse of the exciting new things that the band will be producing.
One noticeable thing was that their current live bass player was the most terrifying man I’d ever seen, with massive hands that could so easily crush you.
As they left the stage, the audience filtered out, and there wasn’t a single disappointed face in the house. The NME Awards Tour gig is always a riot. I’m already excited for next year…
NME Awards Tour, Bristol 02 Academy, 26/03/2014