The 14th of February is usually a day that single people, like me, look forward to with trepidation. However some cheer for couples and singles descended on Nottingham this Valentine’s Day: the NME awards tour rolled into Rock City that evening. The NME awards tour has been notable for showcasing a genuinely exciting mixed bag of upcoming acts in the past. I doubt anyone who went in 2005 can believe what they lucked into with The Killers, The Futureheads, Bloc Party, and Kaiser Chiefs playing the bill that year; although the opposite argument could be used for 2008, which showcased the likes of Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong and The Ting Tings. There is no doubt that there are going to be some unmitigated failures in the alumni from this tour, but the exposure is a glorious gift for any band lucky enough to feature on the tour. This year it was the turn of Azealia Banks, Tribes, Metronomy and Two Door Cinema Club to bless Nottingham with a lengthy night of electrifying and varying styles of live music.
Azealia Banks has achieved a great deal of publicity since bursting onto the scene with the all out explicit yet catchy ‘212’ late last year. Most notable of this publicity was the eyebrow-raising decision to have her as no. 1 on the NME cool list, this tour is now an opportunity to discover if all this hype is justified. A lot of the crowd are still queuing round the block as Banks steps on stage at quarter past seven, but her MC succeeds in getting the sparsely populated crowd bouncing to The Prodigy for her entrance. The young crowd moves along to the beats and the expletives coming out of the New York rapper’s mouth all the way through her short set to closer ‘212’. Whilst Azealia Banks seems to have done a perfectly good job at getting the crowd moving early on, she doesn’t seem to be anything as new and revolutionary as ‘212’ promised. The remainder of her set made her come across as another female rapper – another Nicki Minaj, nothing more notable, different or exciting than the rest of the market.
Azealia Banks had succeeded in getting the crowd moving as Rock City slowly becames progressively fuller ahead of Tribes who were next up. Tribes are not an unfamiliar band to a Nottingham audience – they played a triumphant set in Stealth only a few months ago. However Rock City is an entirely different entity to Stealth, but as the stage becomes flooded by mist for their arrival; you have the feeling that they’ve got to grips with the larger venue. Tribes aren’t anything revolutionary: they preach a moody sound that is halfway between Nirvana and The Strokes. However in such a barren time for new guitar music, they are an exciting prospect. They play an engaging set of songs taken from their recently released debut album ‘Baby’, all of which seem well received by the crowd.
After a short break, the house lights dim again and the electronics of Metronomy kick in. Metronomy have been around for a while, but the last year has seen them rise from obscure dance musicians to being a regular on the 6music playlist and an incredibly popular alternative band. There is one simple reason for this, their latest album: mercury-nominated ‘The English Riviera’, which has received almost universal adoration and positive reviews. Unsurprisingly, tonight’s set draws heavily from ‘The English Riviera’ with the biggest cheers coming for ‘The Bay’ and ‘The Look’; however older songs fit nicely into the set as well. The band play onstage with their trademark ‘push-lights’ on their chest adding to the impressive light show they show off and the crowd barely stops dancing from beginning to end.
I doubt I was the only one whose feet were beginning to get tired from an excessive amount of dancing, but after a quick leg stretching trip to the bar, I adopt my spot for tonight’s headline act: Northern Irish band Two Door Cinema Club. They have only released one album: 2010’s ‘Tourist History’, but by constantly touring this they have gone from being an obscure entity (their last Nottingham gig was in Bodega) to playing the Pyramid stage at last year’s Glastonbury Festival. Their headline slot here on the NME awards tour, seems to be the crowning glory for the success of this album. The crowd seem to be mostly here for Two Door Cinema Club and they do not disappoint: they play the majority of ‘Tourist History’ and showcase some tunes from their upcoming second album, these songs have that trademark twangy sound that has made Two Door Cinema Club what they are. Their most popular songs ‘Undercover Martyn’ and ‘What You Know’ have the lively crowd singing along. As well as this every word that lead man Alex Trimble says is cheered, his Irish accent is so adorable that he may as well have said “I’m having Muesli for Breakfast” and every person in a packed out Rock City would have cheered.
As ‘I can talk’ brings the Two Door Cinema Club set to a close, an exhausted audience files out of Rock City. It had been a night of high quality live music; time will tell if these four artists are part of the successful or unsuccessful alumni of NME awards tours in the past. One thing that is certain though is that the couples in Rock City had enjoyed a great Valentines Day date, but the single people in the audience have had a great distraction from this being the day of happy romantics. Therefore it was quite simply a night of stirring music enjoyed by all involved.
Liam has been listening to: Blur – Tracy Jacks