Gig review: NME Awards Tour at @O2 Academy Leeds

Interpol
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Sales of the once influential NME recently hit record lows, so to sell copies they’ve looked to the power of nostalgia, taking notes from magazines that seem to have found a firm footing through the fortitude of familiarity. It goes some way to explaining why a band formed within the last five years has only graced the cover once in 2014...

It’s overlapped into this year’s Awards Tour, and tonight we’re presented bands entrenched in classic rock, a group making no bones about their affinity for glam, and a headliner formed 17 years ago.

In the opening slot, Circa Waves’ songs are so fresh some don’t have titles yet. But it’s the kind of indie-pop NME peddled six years ago; jangly guitars and ‘ooh-ooh’ vocals destined to soundtrack teen dramas, and far from the psych-noise that singer Keiran Shuddal’s Bo Ningen T-shirt suggests. It feels like a safe booking from a publication usually championing challenging artists.

Royal Blood may be so new they only have two singles to their name, but they’re a band rooted firmly in the hard riffs of 70s metal. Their unusual set-up is where they bring something different; a two-piece consisting of Ben Thatcher on drums and Mike Kerr wrangling hellish sounds from a bass guitar distorted through just enough pedals to resemble its six-stringed cousin.

“I wanna introduce you to the band...this is Ben,” quips Kerr, like he did the previous night in Glasgow. The jokes and the cornerstones of their sound may be recycled, but the musical flourishes they stack upon that foundation make this a defiantly modern take on a classic sound. At times they veer towards Queens of the Stone Age, as on the Josh Homme shaped ‘Little Monster’, and ‘Come on Over’ carries the sort of odd prog-rock sincerity that would make Muse’s Matt Bellamy giggle with glee.

Temples’ James Bagshaw berates the crowd after one song from the Kettering quartet. “Liven up a bit,” he jeers from behind his Bolan-esque curls. It’ll take more than that though, and their unfortunate spot on the bill following Royal Blood’s noise attack means their unsubtle take on glam comes across incredibly weak. Temples’ inability to look forward makes an unexpected feedback blast the only exciting surprise.

Interpol as headliners do seem an odd choice, and there are far more relevant bands out there that could fit the bill better. But tonight the gloomy indie-rockers have Leeds right where they want, and from opener ‘Say Hello to the Angels’ to the unmistakeable two-note riff of ‘Slow Hands’, the bowels of the Academy are a whirlwind of flailing limbs and hoarse voices.

Smiles creep across frontman Paul Banks’ face, at odds with his band’s funereal attire, and Interpol play a career spanning set, slowing momentarily to give us a glimpse of their upcoming fifth LP. New tracks ‘Anywhere’ and ‘My Desire’ are nowhere near as taut as the spiky post-punk revivalism the band originally hit the scene with, but if anything’s been proven tonight, it’s that the Awards Tour – and NME’s new ethos in general – isn’t as forward facing as it once was.

Gig date: March 19

ALEX NELSON

As the NME Awards Tour hit Leeds Academy on Tuesday night, there was a staggeringly varied age range in attendance. Teenagers just past the age of being able to attend without and adult filled the centre of the room, whilst an equally large number of 30 to 50 year olds occupied the sidelines.

People were still pouring in as Circa Waves completed their short but well received set.

Many of the older audience members retreated to the four corners of the venue as the sometimes overwhelmingly heavy duo, Royal Blood, took to the stage. Their unique brand of distorted bass and pounding drums failed to impress all, but the younger spectators, who had gathered in front of the barrier, seemed incredibly pleased have a reason to initiate a mosh pit.

As the jumping and shoving continued throughout the spacey ambience of Temples’s set- by far the most entertaining and varied band of the night, it was becoming obvious to some that this was the first concert several younger audience members had ever attended.

Musically, Temples were on fine form, with the effortlessly cool frontman James Bagshaw swaying back and forth with his guitar, he looked like a less-glammed Marc Bolan, while the other members were content to keep their heads down and focus firmly on executing each song with precision.

By the time headliners Interpol began their set, the downstairs of the Academy was packed. However, the headliners seemed to lack the quirkines the other bands on the line-up had, which made their one hour long set drag in places. This did not deter the fans from going wild after each number, and the group’s humble front-man, Paul Banks, repaid their support by delivering an energetic and powerful performance with each song.

JAMES NUTTALL

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