NME Radar Tour
Hurts and Darwin DeezEdit this event
- Waterfront, Norwich »
There are not that many people at the Waterfront tonight, which is a bit of a shock. I have naively assumed all the younglings of the East would have fought on the Fens to get a ticket to be here, to see these ‘hot’ ‘new’ acts. I abhor the term ‘hot’ - and ‘act’ can frankly do one – but perhaps 18 year olds think this too; they aren’t fools. Either way, on the basis of how easy it is for me waltz through the venue without employing Politeness Tourettes (I am a chronic sufferer, but there are no ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’ moments tonight) - the younglings aren’t nearly as arsed as I expected.
Darwin Deez isn’t daft though. He knows it makes sense to acknowledge the gaps in the venue, and turn it into a positive. And I think this is why he says early on how he likes smaller venues better, and that he prefers this corner of Norwich to the cavernous splendour of The London’s Koko. ‘This is fun for us,’ he says, smiling.
As a band, they have decided to include some dance routines. And though I do not wish to sound weary, I have seen this sort of thing before. Sadly for DD, I saw Sufjan Stevens do between-song cheers - a real-life, indie glee club! - and they were dressed in 1950s cheerleader costumes; and it was brill, heartwarming. This, however, is much more naïve, with the band abandoning neon instruments [a fluoro guitar! A hipster’s axe fantasy!] before lining up and pretending to have a dance battle, aping the godawful moves of that Jason Nevins abomination. But Darwin Deez are joking, and it is quite amiable. The problem is that they are doing their dances to ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ and the Pointer Sisters' ‘Automatic’. And I think you play these songs at your peril. Partly because ‘Automatic’ is about as joyful as it gets [have you heard it recently? It’s immense]. And partly because there is the very dread – but very real - possibility that these 80s songs will sound more alive, more perky - and worse – just better, than Darwin Deez does.
All that said, when they play the hits, it’s charming. ‘Radar Dectector’ and ‘Constellations’ sound tinny, but it becomes them, there is singing from the crowd, and Darwin’s plaintive minor key vocals really do shine - for all the affectation of their performance, he’s an affecting chap. But when they finish, something odd happens. It has never happened to me before, it is unbidden and entirely beyond my control. Darwin and his band are doing a polite thank-you-for-having-us to the crowd, and all of a sudden I see my hand flailing up and waving at them, and my mouth going ‘Bye!’ as if they were mates who had come to stay. And though it lasts only milliseconds before I bat my hand back to obedience, I think it probably says something. Something about – neon guitars, ironical backwards baseball caps and headbands aside - how fond I am of those singles. Either that, or my body’s gone mental.
Next are Everything Everything, who – full indie disclosure - are my favourite band. This, of course, is a blessing and a curse, because I have never seen them before and they are too, too EPIC in my head. In no particular order, I am worried a) that their admirable intricacy won’t come across; b) that I fancy them too much and this is probably not age-appropriate behaviour; and c) because I want my companion to like them. I have already said the word AMAAAAAAAAAZING to him several times. And that is different from your common-or-garden ‘amazing’, because I meant it, loads more.
Should I have worried? After all, Everything Everything haven’t planned for my expectations, it’s unfair; they didn’t ask me to like them this much. They start with ‘Suffragette, Suffragette’. Which is when I do that thing where you place your tongue between your teeth, and hold it there while you grin. The vocals do indeed sound heavenly. But I’m not sure if the rest is crisp enough, even if it is abundantly clear that these chaps know how to do choruses, and also how to chop away from them, like a well-cut documentary might tease. I can see why they’re here with Hurts, though, I don’t think this bill is as puzzling as it first seemed. For one thing, there is a deliberate artfulness about Everything Everything, and heaps of cheekiness. And Hurts share this thoughtfulness; you can tell from their perfectly-aped, heavily pink, TOTP lighting.
When next single ‘Schoolin’ is on, I make the note ‘They must be getting the girls’. And when they do ‘Your Keys, My Boyfriend’ I scribble ‘they are doing noodle faces, but it is not putting me off’. My main problem is a couple of rowdy Antipodeans, who seem intent on broadcasting how much fun they are having to the entire venue. They are one row from the front in a venue nowhere near close to capacity, and they are bellowing, projecting their irksome personalities as if they were more important than the bands we've all come to see. And I don’t want to be furious when my favourite band are playing, so I nip off to the opposite set of speakers. Unfortunately, I can still hear their wacky. It is enough to make you hate People.
EE’s new material sounds both ridiculous and promising. There are huge harmonies that swoop round the room like the evil from the God Box in Indiana Jones. There are big synth stabs. There are thumping middle eights. There are gaps, definitely; there are times when their intricacy and purpose is lost. But they are also variously lush, vital, clever, funny, odd. I notice at one point that Mike Everything has his fingers crossed. But I don’t think they're a band who need luck.
In contrast, Hurts have yet to win me over on record. I have listened to Theo Off Of Hurts on Radio 1 though - and I thought he was charming, erudite and a bit special [not like that]. Live, however, they make a terrific sort of pop sense. They have placed an opera singer (who fails to crack a smile for the entire set) centre-stage, and he is meant to be fwightening, and he really, really is. Being the sort of overly-sensitive idiot who gets nightmares if I put the Wrong Sort Of Thing in my head, I am fairly sure I am going to have dreams about this opera singer. He looks like the sort who might have performed for the baddies in a Weimar drinking hole. But that might just be his poofy [again, not like that], blonde hair.
On stage, they are graceful, absurdly cheek-boned, and a rather statuesque presence, in a venue that is advertising a Kings of Leon tribute act called ‘Kings Ov Leon’. In Hurts' defence, I suspect it’s hard to transfer being statuesque to a perilously uninspiring format like the CD - what frequency can ‘statuesque’ be found on; how do you spear it? Even so, it’s surprising how much more impressive ‘Wonderful Life’ sounds when you’re stood in front of them. And then my brother-in-law points out how Theo reminds him of Sizzla, the gangster from Brookside, and I think ‘Or him out of Johnny Hates Jazz?’ and then I can’t stop smiling.
Lyrically it all makes a lot more sense, too. On ‘Happiness’ Hurts sing ‘We don’t need your cheap salvation,’ and ‘We don’t want sympathy’ [under this I have written, simply, ‘ace’ in capitals] and though it is difficult to quell comparisons to Ultravox by the time they get to the ‘never let you go’ refrain of the chorus, I’m not sure I mind being able to pinpoint their steals. The more pressing issue is that, by the time they get to their finale, there’s almost no one to see their larksome dramarama. Hurts’ delightfully showy and thoroughly un-indie lighting is showing up huge gaps in the venue. So when they finish, with ‘Better Than Love’ – a triumphant, synths-o-clock, choppy anthem with an aching, falsetto vocal – I just want to shout, ‘Where’d everybody GO?’.
Photo by Jonathan Fisher
Wendy is on Twitter, here.
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