Live Music + Gig Reviews

Radio 4 + My Luminaries @ Barfly, Birmingham

8 November 2006

My Luminaries hail from Reading and Manchester, and take the anthemic moroseness of Radiohead, blending it with The Libertines’ ragged urchin spirit and a dash of Arcade Fire quirkiness. The results are powerful and uplifting, but also, crucially, original and a little different to anything else out there at the moment.

They’re hardly reinventing the wheel, but they do what they do with spirit and passion. The songs are really rather good too, with forthcoming single Jumping The Great White standing out with its massive chorus and ferocious guitars. Frontman James Ewers strolls around in an apparent haze, but there’s nothing sloppy or unfocused about these lads. They’ve got the tunes and the talent; with a bit of luck, they might just make it.

Radio 4 came out of the same burgeoning New York scene as The Strokes in 2001, but have never achieved anything like the success of Julian Casablancas’ gang. It’s a sad sight to behold when one of Birmingham’s best venues is nearly empty, especially when there’s a darn good band as Radio 4 playing.

Now on their fourth album, there’s no real hunger over here for an American band of their ilk, as the British scene is brimming with talent inspired by bands like Radio 4. They deserve better than this, though. Without fanfare, Radio 4 promptly rush on stage, and launch straight into new single Packing Things Up On The Scene, one of the standouts from current album Enemies Like This. It’s the kind of pounding dance anthem that the band churn out with ease.

Whereas many of their New York counterparts dealt in stripped down new wave riffs, Radio 4 have always looked for more, often building up layers and layers of sounds and effects. Having said that, when it comes down to it, the songs stand up to the raw live treatment, and sound great.

Singer and bassist Antony Roman avoids any kind of interaction with the audience, which is probably for the best, as there’s a painfully unfunny twat down the front loudly demanding “more cowbells” at every opportunity between songs. They duly oblige, probably not in direct response to the idiot, and knock out their biggest hit, Dance To The Underground.

When it appeared on Gotham, their major label debut, it seemed like the band were destined for big things, but while Franz Ferdinand and the like have gone into orbit, these guys have never really built on this early success.

There’s little time to mull over issues such as that, as the tunes just keep coming for 45 whirlwind minutes. On record, they’ve been hit and miss since Gotham, but all their best bits are condensed into this short set. They won’t have converted many tonight, as there weren’t many present to convert, but they proved what the privileged few knew already, that they’re a superb live act.

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More on Radio 4
Radio 4 + My Luminaries @ Barfly, Birmingham
Radio 4 – Enemies Like These
Radio 4 – Stealing Of A Nation
Radio 4 @ 93 Feet East, London
Radio 4 – Gotham