Charli XCX - Manchester Phones4U Arena
It’s a shame the youthful, fervent mass that pours into Manchester’s newly and horribly re-named enormodome for the return of US punk-pop giants Paramore reserve their love for the headliners and, in part, for opening act Eliza and the Bear. Hayley and co, for sure, take the roof off with a newly rounded live show that focuses heavily on their latest – and best - album. But the openers, a chirpy six piece whose vanilla indie folk gets the crowd on side almost immediately are just dreadful. A combination of de rigueur fiddly, trilling arpeggios (lads, just because you can play above the twelfth fret doesn’t make you Talking Heads), a front man as cocky as he is calculating, doing that “Tha-kyoo!” thing the moment the songs stops, and a closing hoe down that purloins shamelessly and cynically from Mumford and Sons’, they’re the epitome of conveyor desperation. Avoid. Shame then, for sure, because Charli XCX cancelled US dates to accept Paramore’s invitation to support them in the UK and you’d be forgiven for presuming her thumping beats, sharp 80s references and boombox vocals would be a hit wit’ kids. Kinda no, sad to say. Those goth-lite stylings, tailor-made for the Twilight generation, garner polite applause at best. She’s a trooper, for sure, sensing the crowd’s awkwardness after a couple of songs and re-doubling her efforts to engage. They pick up for ‘I Love It’, the radio staple she wrote and performed with Icona Pop but by then the party’s nearly over. Still, youth wasted on the kids and all that. Their loss. As with much of True Romance, her likeable debut album, the methodology is solid and smart – big brash beats, fat bursts of synth and that sensational voice. Oddly enough, it’s not dissimilar to the bag of tricks assembled by Ladyhawke; only the influences differ. Pip Brown got there via Nirvana and her guitar; Charlotte Emma Aitchison, the studio and the industry-insider path that comes from being signed at just 14. ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Grins’ are tremendous as is the near-epic ‘Nuclear Seasons’. Kudos, too, for the rock solid all female backing band. But it’s a new and un-named song, currently being teased for public unveiling next week, that suggests she’s smarter than your average hit-maker. Stick with her. Give her the chance – she’s still just 21 – to grow into who she is. She might just surprise you.