Gig Review by Jim Heru with Photos by Andy Ford for NME

On a cold Tuesday evening in Birmingham city centre, I was cordially invited to see NME’s award tour, on the bill were Circa Waves, Royal Blood, Temples and Interpol. NME editor, Mike Williams, says: “Here at NME we are always championing the best new talent, so securing three of Britain’s most in demand breakthrough bands to kick off proceedings for the tour is totally exciting. Backed up with the world-beating return of Interpol – one of the most important bands to come out of New York ever – is also a massive coup for us”.

As the venue had been changed from the O2 Academy to the Institute, I was expecting a smaller crowd; to my surprise we arrived to a full floor, and by the looks of it, a full upper tier. I expect the change in venue aided in the “full house” approach. With beer in hand the gig ensued, first up – Circa Waves.

NME Awards Tour Ft Interpol + Temples + Royal Blood + Circa Waves at the Institute, Birmingham, UK - 25th March 2014

Circa Waves are a four-piece band from Liverpool; with their upbeat indie-pop songs these young dudes got the gig off to a great start, and I believe the fans agreed with me. On the most crowded stage I’ve ever seen, they sported some good old fashioned grunge attire and were energetic from start to finish. You could really see the passion in their performance; they were having a great time and gave it their all.

After an extremely quick change over; giving drum and bass a new meaning was the duo from Brighton – Royal Blood. The lights dropped and with only a few floor spots to illuminate them – the boys quickly waltzed onto the stage to a large applause and jumped straight into their first song ‘Hole’. I was astonished to find not only was he playing a bass like a 6 string guitar but the sound was so thick, heavy and utterly immense. Reminiscent of early Queens of the Stone Age with shades of Band of Skulls it was clear these guys meant business, with Mike’s Elvis like shimmies and Ben’s heavy drum pummelling (I honestly thought they were going to fly off their stands) it was an amazing performance.

NME Awards Tour Ft Interpol + Temples + Royal Blood + Circa Waves at the Institute, Birmingham, UK - 25th March 2014

One or two problems that seemed to be evident from the start was the levels; it may have been my choice of spot, but I found the vocals quite lost in the bass, which was a shame due to the great singing voice of Mike.

Last but not least. “Good evening Nottingham” – unfortunately for Mike, we weren’t in Nottingham, luckily a few chaps in the crowd decided to correct him – he didn’t acknowledge this.
Overall the performance was intense and utterly satisfying, I’ve become a die-hard fan as of this evening, and recommend seeing them live if you get chance!

After a quick beer refill it was onto the next band – Temples; an English psychedelic rock band from Kettering. Rocking the venue in their 1970’s outfits against a back drop of vintage amps; the guys ambled onto the stage to a few sparse claps; it wasn’t the best entrance, I suspect they were the least favourite of the crowd – soon would change.

NME Awards Tour Ft Interpol + Temples + Royal Blood + Circa Waves at the Institute, Birmingham, UK - 25th March 2014

An integral part of Temple songs are keys; played by the rhythm guitarist Adam Smith, unfortunately they were being drowned out by what I expect was the loud vocals – a continuing problem from the beginning of the gig, even the lead singer James was having issues.

After a rocky start the boys got into their first song, ‘Colours to Life’ – a personal favourite of mine. The hypnotic playing and mellow waves really gave a new air to this gig; a harsh contrast from Royal Blood’s performance; it was a welcome change; I couldn’t help but just flow with the music, and I think the crowd agreed; by the second song everyone was grooving into their sultry tones of psychedelic music.

Overall it was a very tight performance; the songs flowed into one another; matched by the slow disco ball styled lighting; everything was calm and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Hats off to these guys!

Last but not least – Interpol; an American rock band from New York City; the band are currently working on their fifth album; their first since the departure of their bassist Carlos Dengler. As the lights dimmed and the sound of cosmic waves issued the suited and booted chaps onto the stage I had to double take as I thought not only had Carlos left, but now they had enlisted Hank Azaria as drummer! 😉

NME Awards Tour Ft Interpol + Temples + Royal Blood + Circa Waves at the Institute, Birmingham, UK - 25th March 2014

From the start Paul’s guitar work and vocals were spot on; as well as the other members pitch perfect performance, but the initial problem of the venue did a 180 degree on me, now the vocals were being drowned out by the vast number of instruments on stage.

By the second song the crowd were starting to get into the gig – moshing away and singing their hearts out; I predict the change in atmosphere was the chosen tracks from the 2004 album ‘Antics”; their best effort – in my humble opinion; I may have gotten a little carried away with singing along during these songs – but so did the crowd.

The gig flew by, churning out song after song; rarely stopping to talk, Paul seemed quite humble by the warming effect by the crowd – an embarrassed kind of smile glinted over his face after each song; a pleasure to see from a band that’s been around since 1997.

With the end of their set the guys walked off the stage; no large crescendo, just a quick thank you and off they go – not the best sudo-ending I’ve seen; there was no doubt that what ensued was an encore; a few chants here and there from the crowd, but I believe everyone felt the same as me. As the last two songs ended there was a quick thank you and off they strolled; I didn’t know how to react; it was an amazing performance, but a little anti-climactic; I think I expected a little more somehow.

Overall Interpol played a very tight and enjoyable gig; a pleasure to see and I hope to see them again playing their new album soon.

In conclusion this was one of the better gigs I’ve attended; mainly due to wanting to see all the bands playing – which is very rare; so on the whole a very enjoyable night out!

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