Live Review: NME Awards Tour 2013

O2 Academy Birmingham, Birmingham, 16/02/2013

Lineup: Peace – Palma Violets – Miles Kane – Django Django

I’ve been to a number of gigs in my time, but thus far, I’ve encountered few audiences as raucous as the crowds of Birmingham on a Saturday night.  My friend Jake and I found ourselves squeezed just behind the barriers of the O2 Academy, right in the ominous glare of the stage-right speaker stacks.  The crowd was already buzzing with jittery energy: given that this was an NME Awards show, it was mostly made up of teenagers, but there was also a fair amount of older faces noticeable in the mass.  Jake and I suspected that the diversity of the audience was largely due to the headlining presence of the wide-reaching Django Django, balancing out the younger fans of the fiery noise-pop of Peace and Palma Violets.

At about seven-thirty, the grungy longhairs of Peace lumbered onto the stage to hysterical cheers.  Within five minutes I was already drenched in (what I can only hope was) beer, swept up in a swelling wave of clamouring bodies, and my right ear was screaming in protest.  The Birmingham group’s guitar-glazed sounds were quite simply roaring down from the speakers, which provided a terrific, clangourous timbre for the likes of ‘Wraith’ and ‘Bloodshake’.

New songs from their forthcoming debut album In Love were present in their short-but-sweet opening set, with one particular newbie’s pounding chorus finding frontman Harrison Koisser repeatedly screaming “I’m so beautiful!” as we all pogoed away.  But the deal was really sealed with their penultimate offering of ‘California Daze’, which had the venue rattling as mounds of fans surged and shoved their way to the front.  Peace left the stage to wild applause, with guitarist Douglas Castle slinging his guitar over his shoulder to smash onto the stage in an earsplitting explosion of feedback.

If such a rousing performance set the bar for the rest of the acts to follow, Palma Violets were well and truly up to the task.  As three quarters of the band strolled on with a silent confidence, Chilli Jesson bounded onto the stage with a demented energy, hoisting his bass guitar onto his person while panting “this is a fucking good crowd!”  For the thirty-odd minutes that followed, Jesson was a frantic ball of vitriol: howling his throat raw, clambering onto the drumkit, and thrashing his way around the stage, with his impressive fringe flashing back and forth like a whip all the while.

I must say that I was kind of sceptical towards Palma Violets prior to seeing them live: I always try to take “Great British Guitar Band” flag-bearers with a pinch of salt.  But seeing them perform in the flesh, the hype was well and truly justified.  True, their songcraft is far from revolutionary, and the lyrics of ‘14’ and ‘Rattlesnake Highway’ aren’t going to inspire any poets anytime soon.  But hell, as entertainers, they tore the roof off, and not just figuratively: some of the technical equipment came loose from the venue’s ceiling midway through their gig, and was left dangling over the audience until the techies came along to patch it up after their set.

Palma Violets’ set was a hoot, through and through.  Sam Fryer’s crunching guitar sent an electric current through the audience, who responded in kind by sending at least (and this is no exaggeration) twenty crowdsurfers to the front, each of them promptly escorted away by the increasingly exasperated security guards.  At Jesson’s gleeful whoop of “let’s get a circle going!”, swirling craters sprouted in every direction; and believe me, few things can touch the euphoria of bellowing “I wanna be your BEEEESST FRIIIIEEEEND!!!” along with three-thousand other half-drunk indie-lovers.

The Violets were almost definitely the highlight of the evening, although the rowdy males and screeching females in our immediate orbit suggested that Miles Kane was the act everybody had been waiting for.  It’s a shame that I’m personally not too big on Miles Kane’s brand of modish lad-rock, because his set didn’t really click entirely with me.  But fair play to him, the guy is definitely a crowd-pleaser.  He – and much of the audience – had a whale of a time, and the likes of ‘Inhaler’ and ‘Quicksand’ were rousing enough to have me bouncing along with him.  (Plus, kudos to the guy for performing for forty-five minutes straight in leather trousers and a buttoned-up white coat.  He was lucky he didn’t end up drowning.)

After Kane and his backing band left the stage to mass hysteria, a lot of the audience around us shifted and began to head to the bar, confirming my thoughts about Django Django’s reputation in comparison to the other acts.  But when the lighting dimmed and the four-piece finally arrived in their hand-painted uniforms, the crowd quickly filled up again, even if the group were easily the least-enthusiastically-received act of the night.

It’s a shame, really, because they put on a great show.  Despite the first third or so being dampened by sound issues (‘Hail Bop’ and ‘Storm’ were reduced to onslaughts of cacophonous noise), Django Django eventually transformed the O2 Academy into their own kind of rave.  The drums in particular were powerful enough to leave us gasping for air, and the likes of ‘Waveforms’ and ‘Love’s Dart’ were elongated and warped into spaced-out vistas of dustbowl disco.  It all gelled into a fantastic, charismatic production, which definitely worked its magic with me.  I’m a big fan of the group’s 2012 debut album, but on record, the songs can sometimes come off as overly-polished and bereft of any gutsy vigour.  But live, the group certainly get moving and shaking, with Tommy Grace in particular exuding an aura of fun with his huge grin and bouncy demeanour.

Best of all was ‘Default’, whose INSANELY cool riff had just about everybody stamping about recklessly.  Finally, following the tight atmospherics of closer ‘WOR’, Vincent Neff yelped “we’ll see you again soon… maybe!”, and the group skipped offstage.  The roadies arrived to untangle cables and pass out setlists, and we were all left to bask in the warm afterglow of a fantastic wash of music in a sea of crushed plastic cups.  A bloody good show: one which provided value for money, and then some.  Electric.

Setlist

Django Django

Introduction // Hail Bop // Storm // Firewater // Waveforms // Love’s Dart // Skies Over Cairo // Default // Life’s A Beach // WOR

17/02/2013

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Posted on February 17, 2013, in The Music World and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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