Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2010 - Cardiff University Great Hall

If we accept the annual NME tour as the litmus test of the coming year then indications are that we’re still very much in the doldrums. Much has been made of the fact that the line up is almost 100% male but this is surely more indicative of the confidence of the girls who are heading out under their own steam, nor seeking the approbation of the NME before eyeballing the punters.

There’s an element of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s parade’ about tonight’s event which doesn’t help matters for Wales have just beaten Scotland in the rugby and beer stocks are running low all over town. It is a sell-out but, unlike the Kerrang! Show last week, the streets around the university are deserted when the doors open at 7pm. Some will have been surprised to find that darlings of the press The Drums are opening the show but, tonight at least, they fail to live up to expectation. It’s not an enviable slot and, as they hit the stage at 7:15, the venue is not even a quarter full to hear latest single ‘Best Friend’. The hype is far from their fault of course and, froth aside, they are a perfectly serviceable retro indie band in thrall with the sounds of C86. Maybe it is because they are trying a little too hard to impress that their performance verges on the comedic, punctuated as it is with sporadic, epileptic pogoing around the stage with an ineffective tambourine. Essentially they are Hymn From A Village era james only without anywhere near the quality of songs.

As disappointing as the Drums’ performance was, within an hour we’re looking back on it with the sort of fond affection usually reserved for favourite aunts. The cause of this wistful remembrance being the quite distressing Big Pink performance which resembles an ill advised hybrid of BAD and Loop. Award for most jarring moment of the night goes to their performance of ‘Dominos’ which sticks out from their apathetically received set like Torres in the current Liverpool team.

Thankfully the arrival of Bombay Bicycle Club sees the crowd start to engage with the performances rather than prowl the hall on the lookout for free posters of Karen O; there’s even the appearance of some rather tired looking balloons in the front rows which all adds to the growing party atmosphere. Their Anglified take on Arcade Fire, particularly recent single ‘Always Like This’, succeeds in winning over the crowd and even placates those who’ve just arrived to find that they’ve missed the band that does the domino song. There’s not a great deal of clear air between the Bicycle Club and tonight’s headliners Maccabees but the latter do raise their game sufficiently to send the crowd home smiling after a set of brassy, Dexy’s like grooves which reaches an apex with a cover of the Orange Juice classic ‘Rip it Up’. That the cover shone out as the best song played all evening speaks volumes.

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