Event date: 10th February 2012
Words: Michelle Lloyd
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that NME is a force to be reckoned with. Their ability to influence the masses and make or break a career is second to none and this weekend saw the annual NME Awards Tour roll into town once again.
The tour provides the perfect opportunity for some of last year’s most promising acts to put the London buzz aside and go regional. That, coupled with the fact that it is visibly a first gig for many of the crowd, can make it a very unforgiving place. They’ll either love you or loathe you, and they won’t be afraid to show you.
New York rapper Azealia Banks, the proprietor of the number one spot in NME’s Cool List 2011, was given the duty of opening the evening’s proceedings. On paper she isn’t my cup of tea but seeing her zippy self command the stage with such attitude and zeal, I couldn’t help but be impressed. Her rather indelicate single ‘212’ morphing into ‘Firestarter’ definitely set The Academy alight and had everyone bouncing to its filthy tirades.
A quick shift of the stage and London trendies Tribes were on. It’s not been a bad start to 2012 for the Camden four-piece with their debut album Baby going top 20. However somehow the ballsy, hard-hitting album didn’t resonate as well as it could have done live. A somewhat hit-and-miss set. Vocally they’re strong and they have the anthemic sound that could easily engage a venue, but their stage presence is a little under par. Movement was minimal and they just seemed to lack oomph.
Singles ‘Sappho’, ‘We Were Children’ and ‘When My Day Comes’ did however provide high points and proved popular with the young crowd. In all fairness, playing to a sold-out Academy when you’ve been used to the likes of The Ruby Lounge must be a daunting prospect and hopefully with more experience under their belt they’ll become less aloof and more inviting.
Metronomy were next up, arguably one of 2011’s biggest success stories with their Mercury Music Prize nominated album The English Riveria plauded by critics and public alike. By now they’ve perfected an incredibly polished set with high impact, and effortlessly run through the likes of ‘The Bay’, ‘Radio Ladio’, ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Everything Goes My Way’. Each song oozes electronic beats, keyboard riffs and general lo-fi pop perfection. What strikes me most about Metronomy live is the sheer scale of their sound. The drums are forceful and imposing, the basslines rhythmic and the vocals astute. Yet nothing overpowers anything. They’re a finely tuned machine, each part working independently yet in unison. The latter part of the set saw favourites ‘A Thing For Me’ and ‘The Look’ make an appearance under a rainbow of lights, much to the delight of the somewhat sweaty crowd. And with drummer Anna’s sparkly ensemble glistening, Metronomy proved all that glitters really is gold.
The crowd now suitably whipped into a visible frenzy, it was time for Northern Ireland’s finest to take the reigns and prove why they were given the esteemed headline position . Within the first opening lines of album favourite ‘Cigarettes In The Theatre’ it was clear who the crowd were there to see, a glaringly obvious case of 'save the best until last'. A surge of energy and euphoria came over the entire room.
It was Friday night, Manchester Academy was ready to party and Two Door Cinema Club were going to provide the perfect soundtrack.
Anyone familiar with their live sets will know that it’s a high octane affair. I would go as far as saying it’s impossible to witness them play and not move your feet, bop your head or clap your hands. It’s automatic. We were treated to a vigorous hour long set chock full of infectious hooks, jaunty melodies and undeniably catchy lyrics. No time was left to catch our breath before the next intoxicating refrain was upon us. Set staples ‘Undercover Martyn’, ‘Do You Want It All’ and ‘This is the Life’ saw mosh pits erupting in every corner, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were back in festival land with every line being sung in perfect time from the raucous, fun-loving crowd.
Their extensive touring last year has clearly paid off, and they exude confidence in a non egotistical way. Gone are the three somewhat shy boys that played in the modest surroundings of The Deaf Institute two years ago. Everything’s got bigger - both musically and production wise - and lead singer Alex is even including the odd guitar throw into the set (he caught it). Success brought about by their own hard work and fans’ genuine appreciation for what they do - not success through hype or critical acclaim.
The band have been holed up writing and recording their second album for the last few months and we’re informed it’s set for release early next year. New tracks ‘Handshake’, ‘This is Moon’ and ‘Sleep Alone’ are slipped into the set, hinting that their second album will still be as asymmetric, energetic and irresistible as Tourist History but taking on a slightly more mature edge.
‘Come Back Home’ and ‘I Can Talk’ provided the finale to their sassy set. The wow- factor in the latter definitely being the gold lights that embezzled the stage spelling out the ’ah-oh’ from the chorus and provoking much chanting from the 2000 strong crowd. A simple yet incredibly effective idea. And that’s Two Door Cinema Club in a nutshell , simple and effective. They make memorable and addictive music that makes you smile. What more could you want?
I hate to say it, but well done NME.
Originally published: 15th Feb 2012