Neon TreesEdit this event
It's a dank and drizzly evening in the West End, in keeping with a weekend of seemingly non-stop rain that saw fireworks displays across the capital and beyond provide as much spark as an Alan Shearer soliloquy. Perhaps that's the reason this basement venue is rammed to the rafters so early in the working week – are the punters searching for the spectacle – the 'oohs', 'the aahs', the overpriced hotdogs – that their weekends so sorely failed to provide them with?
If it is indeed illumination they are looking for, Neon Trees are, at least, aptly named, although offal-filled bread buns, disappointingly, are not on offer. The Provo, Utah four-piece are a curious sight to behold to begin with. With each band member sporting either hairstyles from hairspray Hades or the kind of headwear that can usually be found kicking about the floor of Primark's accessory department, it's like a group of Camden Lock market stallholders have decided to stop flogging poppers and bootleg Clash t-shirts and try their luck living out the rock'n'roll dream.
And living the dream is what Neon Trees singer Tyler Glenn seems determined to do. His entrance to the stage is so energetic that sweat is dripping from his Gary-Oldham-in-Fifth-Element-esque faux-widow's peak by the time his band has delivered its opening shots, and he even stops mid-song to demand more precision from those clapping along. "London, are you happy to be alive tonight?" he asks. "No, it's fucking Monday", thinks DiS. "YEEEAH!" responds the crowd.
However, no amount of verbal rockets can disguise the fact that Neon Trees largely deal in the post-millennial musical equivalent of a roman candle - synth-infused 'alternative' rock, which was done to death over the last decade and looks in no danger of dying off at the dawn of this one (hello The Wombats!). It also makes it anything but surprising that Ronnie Vannucci, drummer with The Killers, reportedly helped the band to get signed after hearing them in 2008. Nevertheless, there's no denying that Neon Trees seem genuinely thrilled by what they do, and, while Glenn's onstage utterances can be cloying ("Where are the maniacs in this room? Are there any maniacs left in London?"), in the closing 'Sins Of My Youth' the foursome possess the kind of anthem on which their benefactors band made their name, and they belt it out with a zeal that leaves guitarist Chris Allen looking as if he might have suffered a hernia.
However, compared to the river of fire that is the self-proclaimed "Michael Jordan of rock'n'roll" Foxy Shazam, Neon Trees are a backyard display of fountains and Catherine wheels. Before his band have so much as struck a single chord, singer Eric Nally has regaled us with an anecdote about gettin' busy with Mrs Nally and launched himself into the audience. Minutes later, bearded pianist Sky White is finishing off the opener by jumping up and down on his keyboard like an irate chimp and the tone for what follows is set.
Nally, a cross between Derek Zoolander and Vince Noir, flings his mic stand around like a deranged Fred Astaire; a £100-worth of pound coins are summoned from the merch stand and distributed to those within throwing distance; t-shirts are given away to girls in the front row, lit cigarettes are eaten and monologues about Nally writing a song while stuck upside down in a laundry hamper as a kid and America waging war on Wales are told. The penultimate number sees the singer on the shoulders of guitarist Loren, smashing a cymbal with a drumstick. The cymbal is on his head.
The music? Well, it's something like The Blues Brothers, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road-era Elton John, Kiss, Little Richard and Queen pilled off their tits and channelling the ghost of Michael Jackson, but, come on, at firework displays, no one asks what's in the rockets. Or the hotdogs.
photo by Anika Mottershaw