Tuesday, January 25
So here we are at the Birmingham Academy for one of the most anticipated gigs of the year. The NME tour rolls in to town with three of the best bands in the UK and a touch of Las Vegas glamour.
The Kaiser Chiefs are the finest band ever to have been named after a South African football team. Fact. They occupy the coveted ‘lucky’ opening slot on the tour, previously taken by Coldplay, The Coral and Franz Ferdinand.
The Leeds-based quintet are a strange hybrid of other bands and genres. Guitarist Andrew White looks like a refugee from Ocean Colour Scene, keyboard player ‘Peanut’ is a cross between the fifth Libertine and an extra from Grange Hill. Whist they sound like a jamming session between a clutch of classic British bands - Blur, The Kinks, The Jam and Madness.
It’s an entertaining start to the night, as vocalist Ricky Wilson rushes around the stage, swinging his microphone stand and brandishing a cowbell in a slightly aggressive manner.
Their set is short and sharp, but badly paced. Their two singles ‘I Predict a Riot’ and ‘Oh My God’ are played back mid-set, giving the crowd an early opportunity to mosh, but meaning that they’ve peaked too soon.
They’ve got bags of potential and if they could manage to create their own identity rather than being just a sum of their influences, then they could go far.
London four-piece Bloc Party etched their name onto the hearts of hip indie kids all around the country last year with a string of blistering singles. Dressed in white, they deliver them with the poise and belief of a band destined for great things.
The singles ’Banquet’ are ‘She’s Hearing Voices’ and the magnificent ‘Helicopter’ are mixed in with tracks from their forthcoming debut album ‘Silent Alarm’. The band are known for their post-punk stylings and jagged guitars, but some of their newer songs show a more reflective side and posses and epic quality that sets the band apart.
New single ‘So Here We Are’ is a delicious, swirling, bittersweet, melancholic affair, with frontman Kele Okereke intoning “I made a vow to carry you home”. Whilst B-side ‘Positive Tension’ is more taut and aggressive, but no less impassioned.
By the time they leave the stage after playing ‘Little Thoughts’ it’s clear that this is a special band. Bloc Party manage to convey genuine emotion and touch the audience with their songs, something that the other three bands on the bill tonight sadly fail to do.
Sunderland’s The Futureheads are an oddball collection of characters. All angular guitars, twitching rhythms and rapid fire four-part harmonies, they resemble a sort of post-punk Proclaimers.
Futureheads songs are generally two minute blasts of tightly wound art-punk and they can certainly create quite a racket. The vocals are split between each member of the band; all of them delivered in thick Mackem accents, making the band stand out from the crowd.
In the live arena, they are a rockier proposition than on record. As a consequence of this, some of their more intricate subtleties are lost, which is a shame.
However all is not lost, as singer Barry Hyde splits the crowd into two for the moment of the night. What follows is what can only be described as an A Cappella face off between the two sections of the crowd as the provide the “Uh Oh Oh” introduction at the beginning of their magnificent version of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds Of Love’. Genius.
Where The Futureheads provide some Northern grit, headliners The Killers bring a touch of showbiz glitz to end the evening. With the name of his band written in lights behind him and his album to of the UK charts, singer Brandon Flowers is in a confident mood. The charismatic frontman plays a sparkly silver keyboard and is wearing a baby pink tie. Clearly he’s not a shy and retiring character.
The Killers sound could be described as all the best bits of Britpop, mixed with some 80’s synths and given a Hollywood makeover. Imagine if Shed 7 had come from New York rather than York and you’re half way there.
Opener ‘Indie Rock & Roll’ is a gentle piano driven sing-a-long start to proceedings. Before long their two best tracks ‘Somebody Told Me’ and ‘Mr Brightside’ are played back to back causing a pogoing frenzy which engulfs almost the entire bottom tier of the audience.
From then on the crowd are in the palm of Flowers’ hand, even though one song seems to merge into the next, indistinguishable from one another. The band are from Las Vegas, a city where style is valued over substance, and despite their Britpop leanings, it does show.
‘The kids’ however, lap it up and after the final chords of the sleazy ‘Midnight Show’ ring out and the band leave the stage, they’re screaming for more.
When more is delivered in the shape of ‘Jenny’ and ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ and the house lights go up, a sea of sweaty, smiling faces is revealed.
So the evening ends in an away victory for the Americans, with strong performances from our three British bands. It is noticeable that of the bands selected to perform tonight as the cream of the British indie scene, not one of them contained a woman. With bands like The Duke Spirit, The Go! Team and The Zutons around (to name but three), this is a glaring oversight.
Whether any of the bands performing tonight will have the impact of Franz Ferdinand remains to be seen. What is certain is that tonight’s bill is likely to be the best value to grace the Academy this year and that all four bands that appeared are set for a bright future.