The NME Radar tour, formerly known as the New Noise tour, is the little sister to its bigger prominently forceful big brother that lunges round the country every January and February. Bands that have appeared on recent Radar tours include White Lies, La Roux, Friendly Fires, The Cribs and The Automatic. This time round the NME has booked what one could argue is their bravest or most stupid line up choice so far, depending on your view of the commerciality and artistic merits of the bands on offer. Golden Silvers are the headline act. They would probably have difficulty in selling out a venue half the size of the Wedgewood Rooms, whilst the three acts below them on the bill have each released either one or two singles on very small independent labels, and are not typical NME type bands. Is this the influence of the new NME editor, an attempt by the magazine to show that it is pushing boundaries and promoting something different ? Or just a reflection of the way that music fashion is changing right now? Is the NME leading or following ? Or is this discussion even relevant, and should we not just accept the line up for what it is and forget the NME branding?
What is clear is that none of the other three bands are likely to bring in the crowds yet. But it is still somewhat surprising considering the marketing power of the NME brand that venue isn't any busier than half full. Not that we mind at all with Yes Giantess, Local Natives and Marina And The Diamonds all being Breaking More Waves favourites, two of whom we named in our Ones To Watch list last year ( here and here ) and all three of which we have written about a number of times.
What is also noticeable is the demographic of the audience. Whereas previous NME sponsored tours have brought in plenty of hyperactive teenagers who look like they are auditioning for a part in Skins, tonight at least half the audience are in their 30’s to 40’s, with a few older than this. Also conspicuous by their absence are early to mid 20’s skinny jeans wearing lads supping beer and sporting carefully thought out shaggy indie haircuts. Yes there are still quite a few teenagers, but not as many as one may have expected given the NME branding. This half full room and audience mix gives the nights proceedings a rather strange ambience which continues into the performances for both Yes Giantess and Marina And The Diamonds.
Jan Rosenfeld, the lead singer of Yes Giantess is unaccustomed to performing without the protective shield of his synthesiser. But with his keyboard dying at sound check he has to make do with a maraca and a tambourine for company. It’s his first time ever being just a singer and he admits it’s like being naked on stage. The rest of the band have to perform a live electronic experiment, coping with missing parts of their sound. Despite this odd situation for the group, they pull it off. Can’t Help It brings the spirit of Michael Jackson to the room with its squealing, twirling funk and Rosenfeld’s salacious voice, whilst new song Sparks is wiggly danceable. Our favourite remains When The Sun Gets Low with its talk of "It's not an ordinary night tonight, with a baby by my side." We never knew synths could sound so hot-blooded. By the time the four piece finish with Tuff N Stuff, a song which if it were an Olympic sport would surely be weightlifting - heavy, thrusting and arms aloft powerful, heads are nodding, bodies wiggling and Yes Giantess have made a few new friends on the south coast of England.
Local Natives may be from the United States but for one of their number, Ryan, this is a sort of homecoming, having been born in Portsmouth. The band celebrate by bringing a dry humping tribal beat and glorious passion filled harmonies to reach humanly highs. “Let’s hear it for physical touching,” the group announce at one point , not in celebration of amorousness, but for the fact that today was the day that they felt hard copies of their soon to be released album Gorilla Manor for the first time. If Local Natives were a venn diagram the circles would contain the words Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend, and the title of the diagram would be ‘Really Very Good’. From the clattering falsetto led Airplanes with lyrics about a grandparent who has passed away to a rather agreeable version of Warning Sign by Talking Heads, the bands semi folkish indie acoustic rhythmic sound is warm and hugely enjoyable. They finish with debut UK single Sun Hands which ends as huge drum orgy, and leave having fully justified the buzz about the band that came from SXSW earlier this year.
For the first two songs of Marina And The Diamonds (pictured) set everything seems perfectly fine. Marina prances and strides like she has been practicing in front of her bedroom mirror her whole life, her voice is deep, operatic and strong. Then before the band start I Am Not A Robot Marina announces “I haven’t been very well today, and I don’t want you to think I am crap.” As she says the words tears fall from her eyes, and suddenly things feel uncomfortable. Then as she regains composure the band start playing. However all is not well and Marina begins sobbing again and quickly leaves the stage. There are shouts for “C’mon Marina,” but that is it. There are mutterings in the audience of “What a bloody diva,” as she is spotted being escorted out the rear exit by two security men. However Breaking More Waves manages to establish from one of the other bands that Marina has been genuinely quite ill and was physically sick during sound check, but had decided the show must go on. Several fans leave disappointed, and the next day it transpires that Marina has had to pull the next gig in Bristol due to her illness.
Suddenly after the great start from Yes Giantess and Local Natives the evening feels as damp as the puddle filled pavements outside. It’s left to Golden Silvers to ignite the fires once more. Unfortunately the band are too stationary, self indulgent and slow to do that. To their credit they are not you’re average indie band; their sound hints at the otherworldly and vaudeville with an unconventional poppy weirdness, but lacks the energy that is now required to pick the crowd up again. With lead singer and keyboardist Gwilym standing side on dressed in a tight denim jacket, and bassist Ben sporting a slightly vacant bored look, it’s sometimes difficult to tell if they are enjoying themselves or not. With a trippy vintage end of the pier sound the music floats around without ever really hitting home except on the singles True No.9 Blues and the stabby synths and London geezer vocal harmonies of Arrows Of Eros. Golden Silvers have that same mellow vibey feel as band like Super Furry Animals which given the right moment can be astounding, but tonight it seemed just a little too flat.