The NME Awards Tour

19th March 2012

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As we entered Rock City, there were all the signs of NME-induced hysteria. Ripped posters of the Arctic Monkeys lay scattered on the ground and a looping video of the 2010 Libertines reunion played out on the big screens. As you’d expected for a sell-out night, it was packed. Only the bar was conspicuously empty, and on closer inspection, it became clear that the average was hovering around sixteen.

Feeling decidedly old, we bought a drink and watched first act, Azealia Banks’ uncertain arrival onstage. The Harlem rapper comes with a formidable build-up of hype, with almost every review praising her feisty flow and “potty mouth”. With only an accompanying DJ, she looked a bit lost on the big stage and is faced with the unenviable task of playing to a room of white teenagers awaiting the arrival of their indie heroes. I was won over when she laughing asks, “How many of you got school tomorrow?!” But the lights are a bit too school disco, the flow’s too fast to decipher on your first listen and it all falls a bit flat until she closes with single ‘212’ and it’s slow morph into the Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ – everyone finally starts dancing and she leaves with a much more invigorated crowd.

Next up, Camden rockers Tribes. They come on to ringing feedback and darkness, before crashing into ‘Whenever’. At this point, it becomes much more evident that the venue has sold out, and the crowd is a churning, falling-over mess. With single ‘Sappho’ and the rabble-rousing ‘Coming of Age’ things get really out of hand and being at the front is akin to being in a washing machine. It’s exactly how it should be and as they close with single ‘We Were Children’, frontman Johnny Lloyd has his hair ruffled by about half the crowd. We met them outside afterwards, and they remain sweet guys, remembering us from interviewing them six months ago and delighted by their good luck – only too happy to chat and pose with their increasingly adoring fans. They’re looking more rock n roll by the minute and smashed playing a bigger venue.

Having said all of that, it was definitely Metronomy who stole the show. Playing an absolutely perfect set, flitting between calmer, long numbers backed with mood lighting and the big singles with insane strobes, they more than showed their experience. Joe Mount was only frontman who really had a handle on crowd interaction and as an outfit the band were tight and evidently enjoying themselves. With help from hit singles ‘The Bay’, ‘The Look’ and ‘Everything Goes My Way’, everyone is bouncing around and humming alone to the bass riffs. Impressive as ever, always worth seeing live and one’s to watch given the recent end of James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem.

To be completely honest, we had pretty much wiped ourselves out by the time Two Door Cinema Club, what with the sweaty frenzy of Tribes and the non-stop pogoing induced by Metronomy. But, as they warmed us up with Chemical Brothers and Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ (remember that?!) we were as pumped as anyone else. As they came on, pretty much the entire venue was screaming and jumping around – you could feel the floor vibrating. Opening with ‘Cigarettes In The Theatre’ and everyone’s having a blast. The band repeatedly thanked everyone for coming, making them who they are etc and you can almost hear Joe Mount sighing offstage. It all jangles along but listened to like this, you realise just how similar all their songs are – with two new songs demonstrating zero change in sound. The encore of ‘I Can Talk’ and ‘Undercover Martyn’ whips City into a state of manic euphoria, but if you hadn’t been a devoted fan before they started playing, I doubt anything would have won you round. That said, they’d be worth the walk from your tent when they undoubtedly play some festival you attend this summer.