The annual NME tour always manages to get a pretty solid line up which you would probably never get to see except maybe in a festival spread around different stages. Previous years include bands like Django Django, Palma Violets and Temples, and this year certainly doesn’t disappoint. The great line up, combined with a Friday night full of music lovers meant that there was definitely going to be an energetic crowd.
By the time Drenge – [rating: 4] were on, the venue had filled up substantially. Everyone was definitely excited, to the point where those who were still queueing for the cloak room when the band walked on stage, decided they couldn’t miss out and ran into the crowd with backpacks and coats still at hand. The release of the bands 2nd LP “Undertow” has allowed them to choose from a much larger range of songs which are all equally as well received. It’s still amazing the amount of presence and noise that a 3 piece band can create; front-man Eoin’s guitar style makes him switch from lead to rhythm guitar (or both simultaneously) and really creates a sensation that you’re listening to many more guitarists on stage. The large majority of the crowd sang along to all the songs, with songs like “Backwaters”, “We Can Do What We Want” and “Running Wild” receiving the biggest crowd movement, mosh-pits and crowdsurfers. The heavy, youthful and rebellious sound of their music really does makes watching a band like Drenge live worthwhile. You just can’t help but going crazy, get sweaty and really just do whatever you want (I got a bit carried away and accidentally punch someone pretty badly).
When you’re about to see a band like Bloc Party – [rating: 4] who have been around for 10 year, released countless great singles and probably grew up listening to them, it’s hard not to get excited. Their recent return with their new LP “Hymns” was a warm welcome to all the fans who thought the end could be near when 2 members of the band left quite recently. The new line-up includes new bassist Justin and new 21 year old female drummer Louise – the band looks pretty cool now. Lead guitarist Russell explained earlier in an interview how the new members has integrated really well and they were happy to be on stage again.
The set consisted mostly of songs from the new album (“My true Name”, “So Real”, “Virtue”) which sometimes seemed to lack energy in the crowd. In fairness it was released quite recently and also the high calibre of their previous albums really sets a high standard for any new material. However when it came to playing their new single “The Love Within” the crowd went absolutely crazy; the new electronic feel to the album with sonic-like synths turned the whole thing into some sort of house rave and proved that the album still has plenty of oomph to it…definitely a highlight of the set. Amidst all the new songs, Bloc Party definitely didn’t hold back in pleasing the crowd with old favourites; “Hunting Witches” and “Banquet” received massive sing-alongs and the band seemed to be extremely happy to be playing as lead singer Kele smiles throughout and compliments the crowd on the their liveliness.
The band played a total of 17 songs which is really quite generous of them, and at no point it felt like it was dragging on. The set even had 2 encores and it reached the stage where you were left wondering what other songs they could possibly play. However the final 3 songs were probably one of the best endings to a set I’ve ever seen. “Helicopter” is an all-time classic Bloc Party song which saw everyone go crazy do their best air guitar (probably just a reflex cause by the endless times played on Guitar Hero 3); “Ratchet” raping style melodies, spiky guitar riffs and catchy chorus was probably made the best song of the night as everyone screams “Get ratchet!” at the top of their lungs. After the second encore, Kele comes back on stage and thanks the crowd: “You’ve been crazy Birmingham. You didn’t think we’d leave you there did you? This song is called Flux”. A perfect ending to a great set.