Anna Calvi, Grouplove, Big Deal, The History Of Apple Pie - Emerge NME Radar Tour - Koko London
The NME Radar Tour has been introducing new bands to audiences in one form or another since 2005, when it originally went under the banner of the Topman NME New Music Tour. Acts like Maximo Park, La Roux, Crystal Castles and Marina And The Diamonds have all performed over the years, with 2011's tour delivering a headline set from Anna Calvi.
Anna was playing as part of a four band bill, with London based group The History of Apple Pie kicking off the event. This was the second time in a week that I'd seen the five piece as I'd watched the end of a previous set at Brighton's Great Escape Festival. This time round I got to see a bit more of the band. I can't say I was a huge fan as their musical output tended to drift into shoegazing territory's at times, which is a genre I always find boring but there were a few moments when things were a bit more lively that brought a smile to my face and lead singer Stephanie Min entertained throughout with numerous bouts of hair flailing!
The second band up were East london duo Big Deal. The pair performed with just acoustic and electric guitars with both members singing in unison most of the time. I wasn't really concentraing on the pair's musical output throughout their set as I was just getting frustrated with them as they were playing in the dark, which is just dire for picture taking!
If you're a new band surely you want some publicity so don't perform under hideous lighting conditions as no one will be able to get any decent shots of you, so there will be none available if the press comes knocking looking for live pictures for a feature. This isn't just aimed at Big Deal. if you're a band working your way up playing venues that have a half decent lighting rig try and get yourself lit well, at least for the songs photographers are allocated. It may be annoying if you prefer to be back lit but it will help you in the long run (rant over!).
Grouplove were a far brighter proposition as you could actually see them and they brought a lot of energy to the Koko stage! This was my first time catching the LA based five piece and was impressed by their performance. Vocalists Hannah Cooper and Christian Zucconi both seemed extremely happy to be there, with Hannah spending a lot of time away from her keyboard jumping around the stage. The band seemed to win over the audience from the off, delivering tracks from their debut EP and possibly more, with the ones that sounded like a more upbeat Arcade Fire hitting home most succesfully. I'd certainly return to see the band again anyway.
I'd been meaning to view a show from Anna Calvi for a long time. I'd given her self titlled debut album a spin on a few occasions since it's release but it hadn't completely won me over. I had hoped to encounter one of Anna's sets at this year's SXSW in Austin back in March but the singer had to pull out fairly last minute due to an arm injury.
I was hoping I'd be pulled in by Anna's set and things got off to a very promising start when she took to the stage to open proceedings with the atmospheric instrumental (and album opener) "Rider to the sea", a track that showed off Anna's guitar playing chops to great effect.
The singer performed her Koko show with a minimal backing, consisting of just a drummer and a girl playing a few bits of percussion and possibly a squeezebox (?!), pulling her set from her album with "No more words" following her opening song. I seemed to "get" Anna a lot more in the live arena and was particularly won over by her livelier material, including I'll be your man", "Suzanne and I" and "Blackout", which receives a special mention as it always reminds me of Siouxsie Sioux.
Another track that pulled out all the stops was Anna's sumptious cover of Elvis's "Surrender" (the original not the bespectacled New Waver), resulting in a real highlight of the evening. I enjoyed Anna's set a lot more than I thought. It might have been the fact that I was able to find a little space on the end of the front row after leaving the Koko photo pit after our three song allocation so I could see Anna delivering a passionate performance. Normally I tend to end up at the back of the venue trying to peer between people's heads losing interest very quickly! Whatever the reason it certainly made me reevaluate her album when I returned home, getting to grips with it a lot more. If truth be told, my first choice for "Sombre torch singer with added guitar twang" will always be Brooklyn's Nicole Atkins but Miss Calvi could well be in danger of slipping into second place sometime soon!...