NME Awards Tour: Two Door Cinema Club, Metronomy, Tribes, Azealia Banks – Nottingham Rock City, Tuesday February 14
The annual NME tours have an almost unerring knack of placing the most hotly tipped acts at the start of the bill. Last year, The Vaccines showed us what they were made of, and this year it was the turn of New York rapper Azealia Banks, currently surfing a wave of positive press and hipster hype on the strength of just one single.
Feisty and foul-mouthed, with a quick-fire, helium-voiced delivery that bears immediate comparison with Nicki Minaj, Azealia’s appearance and demeanour stood in striking contrast to her material. Sweet and demure in her high-necked, pussy-bowed blouse and sober black trousers, she could have been on her way to a job interview, rather than the stage of a sold-out Rock City. Her smiles softened the sweariness, making it almost seem wholesome.
The cheers which greeted penultimate number Liquorice – a collaboration with Nottingham dance artist Lone that reworks his club hit Pineapple Crush – suggested that plenty of punters had already sussed the local connection. It was the perfect gateway to 212, the eye-wateringly explicit track that started the ball rolling for Azealia towards the end of last year.
Making up for the disappointment of their cancelled support slot with Dog Is Dead in December, Camden indie-rockers Tribes switched the mood in an instant, carrying the open-minded crowd with them. Although there’s nothing remotely ground-breaking to be found in their music, which treads the path forged by Oasis and the Manics, and followed by The Libertines and Kasabian, the four-piece brought authority and drama to their performance, which felt a good deal more convincing than their recorded material.
With an easy swagger that evoked Keith Richards in the early 1970s – and a haircut to match – front man Johnny Lloyd did commendable justice to coming-of-age anthems such as We Were Children and When My Day Comes, and to the unexpectedly affecting Sappho. Tribes might have their limitations, but they also know how to make the most of what they’ve got.
To a certain extent, the opposite proved true for Metronomy, whose third album (The English Riviera) won them many new fans in 2011. It’s a charming and characterful collection, which wistfully evokes the spirit of the Devonshire coast where band leader Joseph Mount grew up.
Drawing on their past as a more overtly electronic, dance-influenced act, Metronomy shifted the landscape of the new songs, replacing sunshine with strobes, and adding a measure of dance floor wallop. Despite this, something about their performance still fell short. Mount might be a gifted writer, but his diffident delivery did the songs no favours, and the chance to make a direct connection with his audience was lost.
No such problems blighted the riotously well-received set from Two Door Cinema Club, who were clearly the act that most had come to see. In the two years since the release of their debut album, they’ve made steady progress on the touring and festival circuit, building their following in the old fashioned way. Although this was their first appearance at Rock City, they’ve been regulars at the Bodega Social Club for several years, and their delight at having made the transition was written all over their faces.
To the uninitiated, there doesn’t seem to be much variety in what they do. The songs are full of rollicking good cheer, tailor-made for mass participation. Tempos are invariably fast and firm, and the same distinctively chiming, trebly guitar runs dominate every arrangement. It’s indie-pop at heart, but its grasp of dance dynamics makes it incredibly effective in a live setting.
“Who’s here on a date?” asked Alex Trimble, reminding us it was Valentine’s night. A scattering of hands shot up, joined by a sea of fists after the follow-up question: “And who’s alone and single?” Well, perhaps a sweaty night at Rock City isn’t most people’s idea of a romantic evening. But if so, then no-one had told the couple who held each other’s gaze through the chorus of What You Know, mouthing its chorus to each other: “I can tell just what you want, you don’t want to be alone… yeah, you’ve known it the whole time.” Meanwhile, the rest of the crowd heaved, moshed and roared, ending the long night on the highest of highs.