The Futureheads - Birmingham Academy
I first saw The Futureheads back in January of last year as part of an NME lineup consisting of them, Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, and headliners The Killers. From moderate success to near world domination, the other three bands on the bill are still yet to produce that 'difficult second album'. However, not even two weeks before their show in Birmingham, the four-piece Sunderland band released their second collection of songs, News and Tributes, upon the populus. After seeing them for the first time, it was apparent that the highlight of their set was an interpretation of national treasure Kate Bush's Hounds of Love, a reworking that invited audience interaction (the band split the audience into two halves, so as to reinforce the dual vocal 'oh-oh-oh' harmonies) and, quite simply, enjoyment. A year and a half on, and that cover version is the only thing some people recognise The Futureheads for. It is as if, on this night, the band are playing to prove just how many strings their bow is equipped with.
Following on from a summery but slightly meandering set from support act Field Music (what one might describe as a Magic Numbers devoid of the females), the band hit the stage and don't muck about, opening with the first track from their new album Yes/No. Shockingly, the song is based around a chorus that jumps from the lyrics 'Yes' and 'No' with reckless abandon. Just as shockingly, it's a frenetic little burst of guitars that steers clear of the three-minute mark. Not at all like them is it? It's a good job their songs are packed with so many great hooks and flourishes - otherwise, one might confuse your A to B's with your Stupid and Shallow's.
Despite not much variation in the overall tone of their music, there are - I'm glad to say - highlights galore. The 'dah-dah-dah-dah-dah' intro to Area sees the crowd go mental, and the lads live up to the promise, delivering an exceptionally tight performance of this track, as well as the likes of Meantime and He Knows. Tellingly, Hounds of Love comes at the gig's halfway point, not reserved for the place in the encore the casual Futureheads fan may have expected. Meanwhile, the new stuff (the future hits from The Futureheads, if you will) sits well next to the material from the first album. Having not listened to the new album, I can't really pick out the tracks that worked best live - however, lead single Skip to the End was pleasing to the ears, as was new track Cope which was introduced by lead singer Barry.
The encore, however, is reserved for two fan favourites from back in the day (because 2005 is oh-so-distant): Decent Days and Nights and a brilliant rendition of Carnival Kids. The set seems to have whizzed by but this is indicative of what the band do best - fast and sharp songs that take you along for the ride. One slight criticism is that, compared to the first time I saw them, the band weren't very communicative with the audience yet maybe this is due to the fact they have more songs to fit into a very short time. They have a fan in me, though, and I'm sure they will continue to gain more if they continue to come up with the goods. The future's bright but it sure ain't orange - it's the colour of The Futureheads, whatever they declare that might be.