Nero - Electric Ballroom, London
Fears that perhaps we might stick out a bit among the audience of Nero’s live sets are alleviated as soon as we step from the icy cold Camden streets into the pleasingly warm Electric Ballroom; for a dubstep production duo, they attract a remarkably varied audience even when you discount the adults milling around the back, clearly dragged along by their 14/15 year old offspring, who are perfectly bemused by it all. Bemused they might be: dropping beats that bring on involuntary root canal treatment, Nero are relentless in their sensory assault for the entirety of the set. If it isn’t the bass attacking your ‘drums, it’s the spectacular light show blinding your retinas. Regardless, it’s clear that the majority of the crowd are lapping up every moment of the assault.
For the casual fan though, perhaps there from a love of their singles all of which are arguably the most accessible on Welcome Reality, the path that Nero tread live might be a touch off-putting. With a vibe more akin to the clubs rather than your standard gig, the duo choose to often put their own spin on their own tracks, almost playing samples of them at times, resulting in extended running times and an enhanced dubstep/drum and bass angle. This is no bad thing obviously: the live act is born for variation, especially from an act such as Nero, but when – for example – the retro dance delights of ‘Crush On You’ transform into a heavy dubstep beast halfway through, it could be off-putting for some.
Still, they’ll learn to grin and bear it, if just for the moments when the captivating Alana Watson joins the duo on stage. Tonight, she appears fleetingly and it always leads to a surge of energy from the crowd; whether she’s appearing like a ghostly apparition from the dark between them on top of Nero’s impressive stage set-up (‘Innocence’) or, bravely, in front of the set-up packed full of speakers taller than the average person (the show-stopping ‘Promises’), she commands the attention even with all the booming beats enveloping her. That’s not to say Nero can’t thrive without her – there’s no other word for ‘Doomsday’ other than massive and their various remixes, including The Streets’ ‘Blinded By The Light’, are all solid – but if this were a football transfer window, we’d only be saying one thing: sign her up.