NME Tour featuring Florence & The Machine, White Lies, Friendly Fires and Glasvegas: Mountford Hall, Liverpool University

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The annual NME Tour is like a Chinese banquet: plenty on offer and we’ve all got our particular favourites.


First off, a moan. Why is it every year – without exception – the NME Tour at Liverpool Uni is a complete ballache.
Ballaches in the past have consisted of:
a) Horrendous queues outside Mountford Hall resulting in missing at least one of the scheduled bands.
b) Ridiculously understaffed bars, charging rip-off prices resulting in lack of beverages, lack of cash and missing large chunks of the show.
c) The Datsuns.
This year’s event was no different as the early door indication of 7pm – and actual opening of doors at 8.45pm – resulted in half of Liverpool’s student population and the rest of us joining a snaking queue which began outside the Uni, twisted its way via Paddy’s Wigwam before filtering down Mount Pleasant and finishing somewhere near Skem. That it was minus 7 degrees hardly helped.
When inside we hovered 10 deep at the bar to be then charged a little over a tenner for three cans of warm Red Stripe. Ace.
Fortunately, The Datsuns are off the cool list so they were nowhere to be seen.
Anyhoo. Florence & her multi-dimensional Machine made up for frost-bitten limbs with a perfectly paced jumble of candle-lit chamber pop and orchestrated thrashing. Pitched somewhere between the usual suspects of kook (Kate Bush, Bjork, Alison Goldfrapp, Joanna Newsom…) but with enough sparkle of her own, Flo (to her mates) had the hall in the palm of her hands from the off dedicating numbers to the ‘girls who’d been applying glitter in the toilets’ while throwing herself not once but twice into the sweaty pit of bodies below the stage.
What she lacks in genuinely barnstorming tracks she makes up for in a captivating presence which should ensure she treds a nifty balance between the Radio 2 brigade and those batty about Natasha Khan and her mighty lashes.
White Lies are shamelessly naff. Like a Hollywood remake of an old classic they cherrypick their influences, wring out any subtleties and inspiration before – and here’s the clever bit – nipping down the POWER LAB – and ramping everything up into an all guns blazing, power chord spectacular oozing with lashes of lyrical melodrama and minimal soul.
They’re Sunset Beach in song form. They’re a Nicholas Cage-assisted Wickerman with explosions. They’re the remake of Psycho complete with excruciating handjob scene.
But more than any of this they’re Editors with Midge Ure on vocals. And guess what? The masses are loving it.
Harry McVeigh may have the charisma of a tree stump, but he’s not alone in celebrating their debut LP bellyflopping into number one in the charts.
Worryingly he’s in the majority. And it’s a guarantee that sometime this summer when you’re making your way across a deserted muddy field you’ll hear in the distance tens of thousands of voices singing in unison ‘This fears got a hold on me…
Undeniable highlight arrives in the form of posh tarts Friendly Fires. Unlike anyone on the bill tonight they skilfully balance performance and emotional depth with instant pop winners. So while Ed Macfarlane prances round like peacock and a raft of brass and percussionists add to the veritable feast on offer for the eyes, they’ve always got proceedings perfectly measured for the ears as well.
White Diamonds exemplies their intoxicating appeal; all plump, pumping basslines, jiggling grooves and rush after rush of energy before Macfarlane’s strained falsetto leads you into a glittery breakdown and cataclysmic climax.
Like everything on offer, opener On Board is seemingly one long chorus of fun as all around people are literally dancing like their actually trying to climb up, climbing aboard,’ while ‘shaking their tamborine until the dawn‘.
There’s no doubting the jewels in the crown; as Paris morphs into a Brazilian drumming and sax-assisted finale of Jump In The Pool as Macfarlane gets pinged around the first six rows as girls take to their boys shoulders in a mass congregation of fun, fun, fun.
It would have been damn hard to follow that. Glasvegas don’t. In fact they barely come close. Having watched them bathed in red dust at Sound City in the intimate setting of the Barfly last summer I was intrigued, more so by their air of mystery and sheer sonic thunder.
Tonight in the more cavernous Union they’re reduced to the ordinary. Their billowing walls of chaos come through in wafts of brown and grey, like some stale whiff in the gents lavs. James Allen, unable to retreat into the oceans of dry ice, looks decidedly trad and during a lamentable cover of the Bunnymen‘s Killing Moon sounds weary and unwell.
And while there’s no doubting the sheer glory of Flowers and Football Tops, Geraldine and a handful of others, it’s hard to equate such a buzz to tricks applied better so many times before.
As the set draws to a close it’s hard to know whether the crowd have been battered into submission and stand in awe or boredom, but certainly the atmosphere grinds to almost a complete stand still as one bloke to our left growls, ‘sod this shite, I’m gettin me bus.’ Better than The Datsuns, mind.

Friendly Fires: Paris (live at Glasto 08)

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