Ah, the obligatory beach ball at the 14+ gig. It just wouldn’t be the same without it.
Tonight’s stop on the NME Radar tour, at Stoke’s best known music venue, the Sugarmill, is packed to the rafters with types in skinny jeans, checked shirts and Nike high tops. It’s enough to make any twentysomething reminisce about the ‘old days’ and feel a little closer to their pension.
A few grey hairs and balding heads litter the venue, diversifying the audience somewhat, but they are few and far between. Soon enough the beach ball is lost and the threat of being rugby tackled by a teenager passes.
One high pitched intro later and the very American Yes Giantess grace the stage. They waste no time with niceties, bursting forth with their brand of synth-filled electro-pop. This warm-up band, proteges of Passion Pit, do exactly as they’re meant to by turning a head nodding audience into a pogo-ing, excitable crowd. A familiar track even coaxes a cheer and a scream from those at the front. “Are you excited about tonight?” vocalist Jan Rosenfeld asks the crowd. Well, it’s difficult not to be when a previously relatively unknown band lives up to its hype.
The use of live drums allows the band to sound organic and actually live. Their keyboards and laptop generated noises broaden the spectrum of their sound. There are no gimmicks and no mad fashion statements. Yes Giantess are an original and importantly, credible band, easily fit to be higher up the bill.
Second on stage are the Local Natives, who don’t seem local, or even native for that matter. They look French and sound American, and the debate on whether all that facial hair is all real will rage for days. The band’s sound combines a gamut of that of many others. If Fleet Foxes were all about being exciting they would be the Local Natives, but Arcade Fire, Interpol (inspiration for that moustache, perhaps), Cherry Ghost, The Bees and Guillemots all get a mention.
But the assumption that you’ve heard it all before needs to be disregarded immediately. Local Natives deliver their sound in the fresh way that makes you think you’ve never heard it before. The use of the keyboards, usually avoided by self-styled ‘serious’ musicians who make serious music for serious people, allows a perfect crossover from Yes Giantess. Their music is urgent and drum-led, harmonious and melodic. The set ends with a Yes Giantess stage invasion and, while there may be no instruments involved except a tambourine, the excitement it riles up is enormous.
But not as exciting as the arrival of Marina And The Diamonds. Marina is as charming as ever in her exchanges with the crowd, but as knowingly sexy and pleasantly arrogant as any diva. The somersaults in her vocals and catchy melodies have earned her comparisons with Kate Bush and her distinctive voice delivers the clearest and most unique vocals of the night. It’s easy to get sucked into her performance and impossible not to smile and dance; clearly the barmen are all in love with Marina, for all jaws are on the floor behind the bar.
She has a massive stage presence and her talent is just as enormous. Her voice can be big and strong, as it is on Mowgli’s Road, or soft and gentle, as on Obsessions. The cover of Late Of The Pier‘s Space And The Woods is a show of great judgement; there is no one in the crowd who doesn’t know this track and Marina’s version is every bit as inventive as the original. She’s fit for a bill-topping spot.
Golden Silvers finish off the night with their smart appearance and equally smart synth-led whirlwind tracks. With several anthems in their canon already, they easily whip up the crowd into a disco frenzy. True Romance is an set highlight; plenty of the audience sing along to this funk influenced favourite, and they certainly have everyone dancing.
The atmosphere is bizarre – the dancing and jumping is to be expected, but the laid back, effortless tone of the Golden Silvers leaves an impression that they are completely relaxed and in their element. Arrows Of Eros is another crowd pleaser. With its off kilter quirkiness it demonstrates the band’s uniqueness and rounds off a genius evening.