LIVE: NME Awards Tour (Bloc Party, Drenge, Bugzy Malone, Ratboy) – Manchester Academy 06.02.16

So returns the NME Awards Tour, the showcase of musical talent that are tipped to by the “hot acts” for the forthcoming year. Headlining the show are the already well established, but recently rediscovered, band known as Bloc Party. Now in their twelfth year of existence amongst the idle music scene, the group have found themselves rediscovered and are creating a new wave of music that is sure to be a success. The new group are being somewhat slated by the Bloc Party die hards, who crave for that original lineup to return, but I, for one, welcome this change; the music doesn’t sound half bad either.

So who are the others, then? Do they deserve a slot on this tour with the music heavyweights, and can they be eventually classed in the same weight division as them? So far, so good for all of them. Ratboy has been the standout act for me so far this year. Winner of the Radio One Most Promising Act Of 2016 Award, he has certainly had a great start to his year. Boasting an Instagram and Twitter account that is so edgy it rivals the likes of Tyler The Creator and the whole Odd Future group, Ratboy has already established a large following in the internet community. Jordan Cardy, a nineteen year old originating from Chelmsford, boasts a large range of musical styles which he chooses to mix together in a rather excellent way. Taking his main inspiration musically from the likes of Blur and Jamie T, his vocal stylings are definitely inspired by Mike Skinner and The Streets too. He performs his songs as a sort of narrative, with stories intwining with the music he plays. It is a style I am fond of, it not only exposes you to great music, but takes you on a literary journey in the process.

Ratboy’s style and persona went over well with the Manchester crowd, but then again he always will. Manchester and Leeds in particular have been a hotbed for Ratboy’s fandom from what I can see, they are both city havens for hipsters – a hipster’s paradise to paraphrase Coolio. Ratboy is a talisman amongst hipsters, although he has been so hotly tipped to make it this year he still has that air of, “oh you won’t have heard of him before,” which people who fall into the clique relish in.

Now onto Bugzy Malone. The hometown boy received a warm and welcoming reception, the crowd recognising him as one of their own. The twenty five year old is one of the top up and coming Grime artists in the United Kingdom; Linked with the likes of Stormzy and Tinie Tempah, Bugzy has been praised as being one of the key elements in the new found “grime revival”. Certainly Grime as a whole has reemerged amongst popular culture, and has found itself being involved in the mainstream picture once again, so much so that a grime song nearly reached Christmas number one (‘Shut Up’ Stormzy).

Bugzy has found a lot of success coming off the back of his most recent single, ‘Watch Your Mouth’. Once the song was dropped on MistaJam’s Radio One show and the video appeared on YouTube, it was immediately grabbed by many big name music channels and radio stations. It is odd to see grime being represented amongst some big names in indie music here tonight, but the crowd seemed to revel in the change. Four hours of continuos indie music would grow to be tedious for a crowd, NME were right to cut it up into sections of differing genres, mainly to give the audience a break from the onslaught of indie music. Bugzy Malone went over well with the audience who seemed to enjoy his style of music.

Following Bugzy Malone were longstanding indie band Drenge. Originating from Castleton in Derbyshire, the two piece alternative rock group sure know how to get a crowd excited and pumped up. Eoin Loveless – great rockstar name – takes the lead on the guitar and provides vocals whilst his younger brother Rory supports him on the drums. The band relocated to Sheffield in 2014 – not great to admit to a Manchester crowd – but still received a warm reaction from the Manchester crowd. It was only recently that I learnt about the Drenge pub quiz interesting fact, that the name Drenge translates to Boys in Danish. The band have appeared at many major festivals , while latest album, Undertow, peaked at an impressive #14 in the UK charts – a great achievement for a band who would still be considered and unrecognisable act.

They certainly know how to make a crowd happy, and with performances like this they are sure to stay in the eyes of the mainstream public. The audience certainly warmed to the rock group, especially seeing as they had just been subjected to Bugzy’s grime performance. I can see Drenge getting bigger and bigger throughout this year, just as Wolf Alice and Royal Blood did last year.

Time for the main event: Performing under a limited set list time can be daunting for a band with the status and back catalogue calibre of a band like Bloc Party, but I believe the song choices were made accordingly and correctly. It was used as a platform of not only showing newer material, but also showing that the band were capable of performing their classic hits with a new group set up. Despite some of the newer material suffering with reviewers, this newly adapted style suits the new lineup. The drumming is not as strong and quick as previous tracks, with an emphasis on an electro-type sound. Songs like ‘The Good News’ are much more mellow and laid back compared to the likes of ‘Banquet’ and ‘Helicopter’.

Bloc Party have the unique ability of being able to put of a great show no matter where they play, or who is in their band. Lead singer Kele has such a likeable aura about him. He is able to stir up a crowd masterfully and dictate their reactions like a true professional. With a simple movement of his hands and/or body he can change the atmosphere of a room within an instant. The old songs had their desired effect and stirred the crowd up to a fever pitch, and the newer songs were watched and well respected.

Overall, NME showcased their new and upcoming talent extremely well. If this is indeed a look at the landscape of the upcoming year then it sure looks like we are in for a good ride, with a strong showing from several different genres.

Oliver Hope

Oliver Hope
Oliver. Twenty Two year old gigaholic. Currently living in Manchester. Master's qualified journalist.