It’s awards time of the year, and as has become tradition around February, the NME is touring the country with four of its anointed acts in order to plug their award ceremony at the end of the month.
The NME Awards Tour has played hosts to acts such as Arctic Monkeys, Maximo Park and The Killers in the past, but this year breaks somewhat with tradition. Apart from headliners The Cribs, all the acts here are genuine ‘breakthrough’ artists with just one or two single releases to their name.
Being an NME tour, the slightly annoying elements are reliably in place – posters for the magazine plastered all over the place – queues of young lads in the gents checking their hair is immaculately gelled to McFly proportions, and a constant loop of adverts for Shelter on the big screen featuring various indie pop stars (presumably to make people think “well, normally I don’t give a toss about homeless people, but if Kele Okereke and Kings Of Leon support Shelter maybe I should…”).
The four band line up meant a ludicriously early start of 7.15, meaning that your normally trusty OMH correspondent missed half of the opening set by The Ting Tings. We did see enough though to conclude that lead singer Katie White is a bit of a star in the making, alternating between pouting moodily, jumping up on speakers and instructing the still half-empty Octagon to clap along.
Formed from the ashes of Dear Eskimo, the Salford duo have an uncanny knack of writing instantly catchy pop songs, and the fact that it’s just Katie on guitar and Jules De Martino on drums make the amount of noise they can create that much more impressive. There are touches of The Pipettes here, a dash of The Gossip there, and a slather of The Go! Team throughout. That’s Not My Name makes for an impressive set closer and they surely won’t be stuck at the bottom of the bill for very much longer.
As if to prove that NME aren’t just interested in skinny boys in spray-on jeans playing guitars, along come Reading’s Does It Offend You, Yeah?. At some point, people are going to become very sick of ‘nu-rave’ and all it entails, but that point obviously hasn’t come yet. DIOYY let leash a cacophoncy of noise and chaos within 30 seconds of coming on stage, and the first 15 rows are transformed into a melee of moshing and pogo-ing.
Even if electro-punk leaves you cold, you can’t help but admire the band (and especially lead singer Morgan Quaintance) for their sheer joy and obvious love of playing their music. They bounce around the stage with massive grins, and keep on thanking the audience for their reactions. Admittedly, their set did seem to mesh into one big noise occasionally, but numbers such as Let’s Make Out and We Are Rockstars become naggingly hypnotic.
After a few minutes of Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong, you begin to wonder why DIOYY weren’t second on the bill. They did everything that a ‘support act’ should do – whip the crowd up into a frenzy for the headliners, and create a name for themselves at the same time. They’re something genuinely different, whereas Joe Lean and his oddly named tribe certainly aren’t.
Perfectly gelled hair? Check. Skinny drainpipe jeans? Check. Songs devoid of any imagination, passion or originality? Oh, check, check, and thrice check. Joe Lean and The Jing Jang Jong are a triumph of style over content, of marketing suss over real talent. They look the part, they even sound the part (if sounding like a 3 year old Razorlight demo is what you’re looking for) but there’s no excitement or anything even slightly different there.
Lucio Starts Fires is about the only song with a memorable tune, whereas forthcoming single Lonely Buoy at least gets some of the crowd dancing and clapping along. But the overall mood throughout the Octagon seemed to be one of flat disappointment (there were more than a few mutterings of “this is boring shite” where I was stood), given the amount of hype that they’ve been the subject of.
Thank heavens for headliners The Cribs then, who were just the sort of band needed to take the evening by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake. Mass cries of ‘Yorkshire’ filled the air as they came onstage (and can we stop this now please? As both Rakim and Ian Brown once said, “it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at”) before the brothers Jarman launched ferociously into Don’t You Want To Be Relevant.
Last year’s Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever album was one of the best records of 2007, and the highlights were duly celebrated here. Our Bovine Public was fast and furious, I’m A Realist provoked mass singalongs and the brilliant Women’s Needs saw Ryan Jarman spiralling off into ever more chaotic guitar solos.
Onstage banter was limited to “We’re the Cribs from Salem, Massachusetts”, and some nice tributes to Sheffield venue The Casbah (which, according to Gary Jarman, “changed my life”) but otherwise the trio powered through an rousing setlist with hardly time to stop to catch their breath. There were plenty of older highlights as well, with Mirror Kisses and You Can No Longer Cheat You sounding particularly fine.
The sound system and various squalls of feedback may have masked the band’s excellent lyrics (which is what sets them apart from the Kaisers and Pigeon Detectives of this world) but the energy and charisma of the Jarmans onstage put the other three bands to shame. After a shirtless Ryan jumped into the audience to crowd-surf, the stately figure of Lee Ranaldo appeared on the screen for the finale of Be Safe – Ranaldo’s New York drawl being the perfect counterpoint to the twins’ cacophonous racket.
The Cribs can rarely do any wrong in Yorkshire anyway, but it is sets like this that remind you why they’re held in such high regard.