Shock Waves NME Awards Tour: O2 Academy Leeds

Featuring Crystal Castles / Magnetic Man / Everything Everything / The Vaccines

Another year another NME Awards Tour, which in the past has helped launch bands like The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Florence and the Machine and the Kaiser Chiefs. This year they have conjured up another impressive and eclectic line up, headlined by the Canadian duo Crystal Castles but before their entrance we have some of what are feted as being Britain’s finest new acts.

A sold out Academy greeted London based alternative rock band The Vaccines. They are fronted by 23 year old Justin Young, whose previous brush with fame was as indie folkster Jay Jay Pistolet, his support band then boasted one Marcus Mumford. Tonight though it’s all about machine gun guitars and raw edgy vocals that the crowd eat up. Post Break Up Sex, their top 40 single, and the wonderful Wreckin Bar go down a storm but its noticeable there are quite a few ‘fillers’ in their 30 minute set, so maybe the hype has come a little too early before they wrote a full set of songs that are the calibre of If You Wanna, the demo that first caused heads to turn their way. Their eagerly awaited debut album due out in March and tentatively titled What Else Did You Expect From The Vaccines will reveal the answer.

Fronted by a Geordie and containing members originating from Kent and the Channel Islands, ‘Manchester’ act Everything Everything are a high flying band and get a deafening welcome. Despite limited single success their debut album Man Alive made a big dent in the top 20 late last year. They play melodic soulful music with a punky electronic edge and frontman Jonathan Higgs has an amazing vocal range, the thing that sets EE apart from other pretenders, which he manages to fully utilise it on nearly every track. MY KZ, UR BF ( My Keys, Your Boyfriend) is a great pop song that gets a massive cheer, just shading Schoolin, on which the audience are word perfect. Photoshop Handsome is another ideal vehicle to show off their strengths and they have a top closer in Man Alive. A very tight impressive set that has the audience, especially the girls, screaming for more.

In Magnetic Man, the promoters have played an ace. The trio of dub step producers / DJ’s who make up MM are Skream, Benga and Artwork and their ‘instruments’ are basically 3 laptops synced together, one playing drums samples, another bass mixes and the third which Artwork controls takes the lead and syncs the others. Their booming bass heavy beats produced a top 5 album The Cybermen and two chart bothering singles, I Need Air and Perfect Stranger, both of which are featured tonight. Fronted this evening by dreadlocked MC Sgt. Pokes, he gees up the crowd and the trio deliver a set to shake the buildings foundations, backed up by a hypnotic and bedazzling light show. A memorable 40 minutes of dubstep at its very best that had the audience transfixed.

How to follow that ! well Crystal Castles do their best. Their entrance is preceded by an announcement that singer Alice Glass has broken her ankle but will still be performing, she takes the stage on crutches but manages to climb atop the monitors and bounce like a human dynamo for the next 50 minutes. The other half of the duo, mysterious producer Ethan Kath, is hooded and stands in the shadows as he produces their synth driven experimental electronic beats and together with live drummer Chris Chartrand they whip up the crowd. That could maybe explain the unusual request for all the photographers to be removed from the pit and invited onto the stage for the first three songs to takes pictures from stage left as Ethan stood stage right maintaining his low profile.

The Castles are NME faves having played the 2008 NME New Noise Tour, and impressively they have also done most of the major festivals in the last year. Their highlight this evening for me is Not In Love, and although I found the set to be a little monotonous after the first 20 minutes most of the young audience didn’t and not many left before the close.

Overall a top evening of music with Magnetic Man undoubtedly winning the battle for most popular and most impressive.