The NME Awards Tour isn’t just any tour, it’s one of the prestigious tours in British music. A launch pad for some of the best artists of the last decade, these tours are often the last chance many of us get to rub shoulders with the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, The Killers and Bloc Party before they shoot to arena-sized super stardom. So it goes without saying that as the doors of the Brighton Dome swung open I was eagerly awaiting the class of 2010.
Almost a year to the day since Florence Welch and her machine sprung onto the stage bound for the top (Florence actually picked up a Brit award the very next evening), The Drums took the highly coveted opening slot. If topping every ‘2010 ones to watch’ list had pilled on the pressure then the boys from New York didn’t let it show. Flying through a 7 song set, a delightful combination of corking tunes (notably ‘Don’t Be A Jerk, Johnny‘) and indie-oddball charm they whipped the ever growing crowd in to a frenzy. Closing with crowd favourite ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ the Drums leave on wave of euphoria safe in the knowledge that they can add Brighton to their list ’town’s conquered’ as they make their way to the top.
Of the three support acts, The Big Pink (you know, “those girls fall like dominooooos”) were the ones backed by a fair chunk of mainstream radio playlist action. But all that did was boost them way too high in my estimations. Right from the off the wall of synth-based noise began, over powering everything in its wake, continuing without pausing for breath right to the opening bars of set finale ‘Dominos’. Their lyrics unrecognisable, the band (lead singer aside) looking like a bunch of grumpy, grungy teenagers and the crowd looking increasingly uninterested (again, until Dominos kicked in). Maybe it was the sound system, maybe it was an off night, maybe I just didn’t ’get it’ but I was left feeling that The Big Pink and their hit tune have much more in common with their pizza-selling name sake. On the surface you may think you want a slice, but as soon as it’s over you’ll be left feeling stuffed and unsatisfied.
Reviewing Bombay Bicycle Club without mentioning how young they look, is like mentioning Pete Doherty without the drug scandal, but as the third band of the evening hit the Dome I’m struck by how the base player would look more at home in the playground that on tour. But don’t let their boyish looks fool you, the London boys are seriously good. While ‘Evening/Morning’ may well steal the award for anthem of the night, the stand out thing about Bombay Bicycle Club is how they’re a band who visibly enjoy every second on stage (they even finish the night with an impromptu banjo jam at the front of the venue). And they’re not the only ones, the Brighton crowd join them in a smile-a-thon from start to finish that ensures the evening is set for a grand the finale.
Proving in 2009, along with The Horrors and Noah And The Whale, that the ‘difficult second album’ really isn’t that difficult, headliners The Maccabees take to their hometown stage like they’ve been working to this moment their whole lives. Backed by a three piece brass section, the boys a different proposition to the band we fell in love with in mid 2007 - they’re louder, they’re sharper and they’ve matured into a impressive live act. They haven’t lost any of their lovable charm (as a stunning rendition of ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ proves), but they just seem more comfortable in their own skin. After a triumphant set that includes new album greats like ‘No Kind Words’ alongside a beefier crowd favourite ’Precious Time’ , there isn’t a soul in the house who isn’t wowed by the group who formed just a few short yards up the road.
As the final notes of ’Love You Better’ float into the night sky, Orlando beams “Even you guys in the seats at the top are stood up, it means so much to us to know that you‘re all having a good time“. Well Orlando, if tonight‘s performance is anything to go by, you boys are a shining example of how the nice guys don’t always finish last.