The last time I attended a gig at Lincoln’s Engine Shed the venue was, criminally, only a quarter full. A shame because on this December evening The Bluetones performed a near-classic album to a very high standard. Naturally, the relatively small crowd can be attributed to the fact that a twelve year-old record was being played at a University venue whose populace are unlikely to remember it. Of course, the majority of those students are more concerned with the here and now of music and what better way to see what is “here” and indeed “now” than the NME tour sponsored by Shockwaves, whose hair-styling products may well be popular with the attendees on this wintry February night.
Having said that, I wager that Florence – frontwoman for first act Florence And The Machine – is a stranger to a comb not to mention Shockwaves. Her “Patsy Palmer just got out of bed” look contrasted with a hyperactive performance, which showed that what she lacks in subtlety and maturity she makes up for in enthusiasm and passion. Backed by an equally effervescent group of musicians, Florence showed off her impressive vocal range. It is at these times when I’d usually be forced to compare her with other female musicians past and present but it’s hard to think of any. She seems to be a true original – bluesy one minute and folky the next – and although her songwriting is a bit kooky for my tastes, she put on a good show and won over the audience very easily considering she was the first act on the bill.
On the face of it, White Lies’ death obsession doesn’t seem the kind of way to generate much audience excitement. Yet despite that, their album went straight to the UK number 1 slot. I’ll warrant much of that will be due to the massive amount of hype generated on the band by marketing people who realise this is a lean period for releasing new albums, so any act much be promoted to the maximum. White Lies have gained mixed reviews from the music press who describe them as either the most exciting band of the year or a pale imitation of bands such as Interpol and Editors; the latter view most likely to be held by the over-30s. Either way, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
No matter what you think of their recorded output, in live form they are a bunch of young musicians whose studied cool went down very well with the audience. In much the same way as Interpol’s ‘Antics’ album, most of the songs they played followed a formula of driving verses and chorus which managed to extract a sense of euphoria from the miserable lyrics; ‘A Place To Hide’ being one of several standouts. Their music also proved to be surprisingly danceable and of all the acts on the night, they were the ones who exceeded my expectations the most.
Having purchased the Friendly Fires album, I had become quite familiar with their songs. An often confusing record, due to its unlikely mix of shoegazing, funk, pop, dance and indie, how they cut it in the live environment would certainly be interesting. Their segment was satisfactory but the dreamy effects of hit singles ‘Paris’ and ‘Jump In The Pool’ didn’t transmit well from the stage. Thankfully they redeemed themselves with lively renditions of ‘Skeleton Boy’ and ‘Lovesick’, where they resembled a younger, funkier version of Duran Duran. Frontman Ed Macfarlane looked every inch a part of the largely student-based crowd thanks to his slightly camp routine but his vocals were diminished by constantly jumping around. Meanwhile, Rob Lee (who only joins the band for live shows and looks about twice the age of his young bandmates) was the busiest of all; regularly switching between bass and percussion duties. However, Florence choosing to make her second guest vocal appearance of the night didn’t do anyone any favours.
In this company, I almost felt sorry for Glasvegas who had to somehow follow three sets of very excitable performers with their shoegaze-meets-Spector material. Sure enough, Florence had the dignity to sit this one out, the moshing was reduced to a minimum, a minority left the venue altogether and those who remained were treated to half an hour’s worth of effects-saturated Scottish melancholia. Eager to please that they are though, frontman James Allan said he thought Lincoln was “lovely” and then led some football terrace-inspired chanting. I’m not sure if singing “Here we go, here we go. Here we fucking go!” and “Your daddy’s gone.. he’s gone.. he’s gone… woah oah, wahoah” is the most healthy singalong material I’ve ever heard but the participants seemed to enjoy it and were sent away full of bonhomie.
This being a tour curated by one of the more fashion-orientated music magazines, it’s easy to be cynical about some of these musicians and wonder whether they’ll all be heralded (or even in existence) in, say, five years’ time. Yet all the acts were entertaining in their own way and gave good value to those who shelled out fifteen quid to see thirty-plus songs performed by some of the most popular indie artists around today.
Florence And The Machine