XFM, London’s alternative music station periodically holds party nights at various London venues. October’s show was headlined by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC). Support came in the form of Glaswegian rockers, El Presidente and newcomers Battle. Added to the mix were various XFM DJs and guest DJ sets from members of the Libertines and Razorlight. An additional bonus came in the form of discounted larger (only £1.50 a pint!), half the cost of a normal pint at the Academy.
Battle were the first live band, their sounds closely resembling the Editors – a modern approach to Joy Division. Their tunes were probably unknown most of the crowd but based on this outing it won’t be long until they too get extensive airtime on XFM. The singer’s looks will also help this band create an extensive legion of teenage lady fans, which will also undoubtedly increase their record sales. Having said that, I do feel that they could do much better by eliminating some of the cheesier synthesiser parts.
El Presidente are an up-and-coming band from Glasgow. Their lead singer was previously with punk rockers Gun. The band performs raw rock coupled with an outrageous wardrobe, although they are far removed from pseudo-glam halfwits like The Darkness. While they certainly already look like stars, I’m not so sure that their songs have the necessary quality to elevate them to that status however. Their music may not be not bad in itself; but it is desperate need of more variety to help them develop a uniqueness which goes beyond their on-stage costumes.
A larger gap between acts meant that the DJs could do their thing that little bit longer. The crowd, who had obviously taken advantage of the cheep beer, were dancing like crazy and singing along to all of the current indie ‘classics’. Then BRMC were introduced and immediately kicked off with a new song ‘Devils Waiting’. The solo guitar and lone vocal presence on stage become a harrowing contrast to the tunes spun on the decks. The crowd seem somewhat bemused at this but take it in their stride. As the song progresses, the band come onto the stage one by one, and gradually the band’s statement to the alternative radio listeners becomes clearer – we are more than the rest of the bands that you listen to. Howl is next, the organ and guitar songs build into quite a racket (in a good way). The opening trio of new songs ends with ‘Ain’t No Easy Way’. With its stomping acoustic guitar riff driving the crowd wild, whilst the harmonica spins around the beat. General moshing at the front of the crowd started and indeed continued with the next song. A return to their debut album with ‘Love Burns’. I had forgotten quite how bloody brilliant this song is. ‘Punk Song’ (Whatever Happened to My Rock n Roll) came and went, the crowd going wild and the moshing reached fever pitch. Meanwhile I looked at my watch and wondered why they had played their best live song so early on in their set. ‘Spread Your Love’ was again well received, although I got the impression that the band were rather bored at this stage and after a powerful opening, were now simply going through the motions.
However, a return to new material showed a vast improvement in body language and general stage presence. It feels as though their new material is what is really giving them a buzz nowadays, which is an encouraging sign for any band. ‘Weight of the World’ was mellower than previous songs and one could sense the disappointment in the crowd, who were beered-up and in the mood for more danceable anthems. However, this was far more interesting both as a song and as a performance. Before finishing their set with perhaps their best song from their new album, ‘Promise’, the band apologised that their set was so short and stated that they would make this one count. An they weren’t wrongs, as they proceeded to weave hypnotising piano and vocals for a very textured sound that really worked in this live setting.
The set was over and the crowd was bewildered as to what had hit them. Perhaps the über-trendy finger-on-the-pulse crowd were unsure whether their new stuff was indeed ‘cool’ enough to like. But BRMC came and made a statement. They have been bold and adventurous in their music (as I previously stated in my review of Howl) and are far the better band for it – both on and off the CD.
All in all it was a great night with some good, interesting bands. But one feels that had BRMC been allowed to play a ‘proper’ set, then it would have been an even more enjoyable night. XFM DJs may be great but they lack the power, intensity and passion of any average live band, let alone emerging greats like BRMC. XFM! Please take note for next time!
Ain’t No Easy Way
Spread Your Love
Weight of the World