Shockwaves NME Awards Tour featuring The Maccabees, The Big Pink, Bombay Bicycle Club and The Drums, Manchester Academy, 6 February 2010 – Live Review

February 8, 2010
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Gig/Concert: Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2010
Venue: Manchester Academy, Manchester, England
Date: 6 February 2010
Headliners: Maccabees
In one word: Pulsating

The annual NME Awards Tour is renowned for showcasing acts that are set to be big in the coming year; in 2005, it was The Killers, in 2006, it was Arctic Monkeys and most recently, last year, was the turn of Florence and the Machine. I was eagerly anticipating this gig as a chance to catch some exciting bands.

First up were New Yorkers, The Drums, who have been tipped as one of the bands for 2010. I hadn’t heard any of their songs before seeing them live, but I was pleasantly surprised. Standout tracks were “Down By The Water”, with its heart-felt lyrics, and “Let’s Go Surfing”, a track with a catchy hook and an essence of Vampire Weekend. During the second song, “Submarine”, one of the guitarists ditched his strings and picked up a tambourine, he then leapt around on the spot, bashing the skin, like a child who has overdone it on fizzy pop, blue Smarties and E-numbers in general; he was very entertaining. Frontman Jonathan Pierce declared that the band was enjoying being in Manchester, and it was evident from him Ian Curtis-esque dancing and similar vocal tones that they have been heavily influenced by one of the great Manchester bands. I was impressed by this band and I’m really looking forward to seeing them play again in May.

“…Robbie Furze almost ripping the strings off his guitar, the band pulsated energy”

The Big Pink were second on the bill and arrived on stage to a big build up, before launching into “Too Young To Love”. With seizure inducing lighting (I felt sorry for the photographers in the pit!) and Robbie Furze almost ripping the strings off his guitar, the band pulsated energy; energy that was not matched by the audience until their last song, “Dominos”, and even then it was only a short spurt. Their sound was completely different to any of the other bands set to appear, so I think the atmosphere at one of their own concerts would be much better. As well as “Dominos”, the best song of their set was the single “Velvet”. Sumptuous and raw, Furze’s vocals echoed around the venue and proved that this band have a soul.

After a short wait, Bombay Bicycle Club took to the stage and played the short opening track from their debut album I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose to start their 45 minute set. The crowd were obviously more familiar with these boys and really got into the swing of things when they played “What If”, with its punchy beat and catchy hook. Notable songs were “Evening/Morning”, “Magnet” and their recent re-issued single “Always Like This”, which got the biggest dance/shuffle of their set. At one point, I thought I was at a Tom Jones concert when a bra went flying at the stage and landed on guitarist Jamie MacColl’s mic stand! They ended the set with “Cancel On Me”, one of my favourite songs from the album, and left the crowd eagerly awaiting the headliners – The Maccabees.

This being the fourth time I’ve seen The Maccabees, I knew pretty much what to expect; a quick-paced set comprised of well-known songs from their first album along with new tracks from their second effort. As soon as the opening chords of “William Powers” were played, I was in my element. A grin was fixed permanently on my face throughout the set because, after all, I was seeing my favourite band play for the third time in less than a year at this sold out gig. The band played “All In Your Rows”, a song from their first album which I haven’t heard live since 2007, so if the gig had ended there I would have been content. But their set continued and they were flanked by a brass section for renditions of “Can You Give It?” and “Wall Of Arms”. Half way through, guitarist Felix White welcomed John Bramwell from their “favourite Manchester band” I Am Kloot, who I had seen support them the first time I saw The Maccabees live. They played a version of “Because” with Bramwell on vocals, but White was singing every word along with him as if he was his idol.

Their set was short and sweet, at only 50 minutes long, and notable absences were “Lego” and “About Your Dress”, however I’m sure they just wanted to concentrate on their most recent songs. The main set ended with the customary “First Love” and they returned to a chanting crowd to play “Bag of Bones” and “Love You Better”. Hearing the former live again has made me appreciate it much more, with Orlando Weeks’ haunting vocals echoing around the room.

© Francesca Howell, Music Vice

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