NME Awards Tour
We Are Scientists, Maximo Park, and Arctic MonkeysEdit this event
- Guildhall, Portsmouth »
The NME awards tour is always a funny one. The chosen bands usually fill a few areas of the required genre-spanning intent of the publication, coupled with those who've successfully forged a record deal and sold a few indie singles in the last few months.
This year's February jaunt sees the two headliners both arrive from independent labels, in itself something of a delightful novelty. Rather than indicative of the New Musical Express' shift in musical tastes, it seems to encompass a sidestep in the British public's attitude toward new music and what is being touted in the media, yet more pertinently it signals the successes of independent imprints in choosing and spending wisely, both on artists and marketing.
Take West London's Mystery Jets for example. Few could have predicted a year ago that the five-piece would take their harmonious progressively-tinged pop to a string of theatre venues, particularly under the header of the world's biggest selling rock weekly. The inexplicable charm of the band, emanating from their on-stage personability and truly likeable songs has propelled them to MTV2 playlist success and a hardcore of barrier-huggers here tonight.
The five-piece have successfully bridged the gap into this echelon, their songs possessing a natural expansiveness that suits the surroundings quite perfectly. Despite taking the stage at 7.20pm, they're still as bouncy as ever and bring effortless smiles and sing-along choruses, yet maintain enough of their trademark off-kilter stabs and noises to keep people at both ends of the musical listening spectrum happy.
We Are Scientists however are something of a one-trick pony. It's difficult for a three-piece to construct songs of a constantly mutating and captivating nature, particularly when they're limited to the standard bass/guitar/drums fare. It's not to say that they don't do what they do well - far from it. The indie-rock masses are gathered happily tonight to sing along to their turbo-charged choruses, the singles receiving wild reception and feral crowd participation from most corners.
The Scientists paint themselves to be the jokers of the tour, proclaiming that the Arctic Monkeys will 'destroy your mind' and that their own band should be kicked off the tour because they pale in comparison to the Mystery Jets. They're wrong, this is their audience and they know it. Their longevity maybe uncertain, but there's a place in many hearts for We Are Scientists right now and for dumb indie fun, you could do a lot worse.
"So we won that fuckin' Brit award then," proclaims Alex Turner, the cherubic minister at the front of the Arctic Monkeys' worship hall, before launching nonchalantly into album album opener 'The View from the Afternoon'. The reception of the crowd is at times awe-inspiring, and at times completely daunting, both for an impartial bystander and surely for the band themselves. Cockily dropping in two massive singles in the first three songs of the set, the swagger belies an occasionally prevalent intimidation across the band. Their desperation to appear aloof and unmoved by the sensationalism surrounding the band is almost off-putting at times, but not enough to detract from the facts, the simple truth; the Arctic Monkeys are a great, great band.
Musically tighter than the skins of their much-molested drums, everything builds to vital, mind-penetrating refrains that suck the dead air out of the Portsmouth Guildhall and replace it with the souls of hundreds of caffeine-wired kids. Where the Monkeys lose points for lacking in diversity or originality, they fight back with fistfuls of energy and elementary excecution of melody and anthems that fit all the way from the pubs to the stadiums.
When the three bands that precede you are all garnering national press and respect, hype and adoration, you've no choice but to raise your game, up the stakes and come back fighting harder than ever. It's always been said the North East instills something of a fighting spirit in its children and, for Maximo Park, this bodes well.
The first thing that really hits you is how singer Paul Smith has managed to mutate, seemingly overnight, from the bastion of indie bookishness into a toned, hyperactive monster. He's flanked to his left by the kind of keyboardist who realises that in his downtime during songs, there's not a great deal to do, and the only way to get by is careering around the stage, taunting the crowd and generally exhibiting the kind of ADD symptoms that ritalin manufacturers dream about.
Aside from the on-stage boisterousness and notably excellent light show, Maximo Park truly rise to the occasion this evening. Musically they're tighter than ever. The songs from debut LP A Certain Trigger have been thrown a lifeboat with a nice big engine for the back and are motoring back toward our shores with more aplomb than ever.
Rumours of a thinning crowd, post-Monkeys on this tour are a half-truth. The audience dementia on display for the Sheffield four-piece outstrips what Maximo are confronted with, but this belies the true pecking order of the bands tonight. The 'Park are on top, top form, sounding more vital and on top of their North East movement than could ever have been expected. If they can use this momentum to return with an equally enthusiastic second album, this stage will remain theirs for domination.
Photo (not from this show) by: Sonia Melot
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