review by Jason Kinnard
photos by Alex Crick
The NME Awards Tour rolled through Seattle on Tuesday night at Neumos featuring a couple of the hottest new bands from the U.K. This was a show we (and quite a few others) had circled on our calendars for months. Both on the heels of new albums, Friendly Fires and White Lies were a couple of the best acts of SXSW this year. With so many bands coming over every year, the festival has become a good barometer of talent.
The night opened with San Diego’s The Soft Pack, a band I didn’t know much about coming in. My guess was that they must be pretty good considering who they were opening for. [ed. they used to be called The Muslims.] The Neumos crowd was still a little thin at this point but the band blasted through a short set of noisy post-punk/surf rock to kick things off properly. The band had an energetic live show with a lot of fun audience dialogue and the singer was constantly talking about the buttons on his “blouse” coming unbuttoned. They even proclaimed they were “rocking for Jesus,” but it was all in good fun and they seemed to resonate well with the crowd. You could sense though that the crowd (now at full capacity) were all waiting for the main acts.
I was not exactly sure who would be opening for whom (the Soft Pack wasn’t even sure!), but White Lies took the stage next. Much louder than the opening band, but in a different way, White Lies brought a darker, gothic feel to the room and their big rock sound was evident from the first note. The heavy bass rumbled the room as they ripped through most of the songs from their new album, To Lose My Life. The band had a cool vibe to them and the lighting was superb for their set. These were some good looking chaps! Given his deep vocal range though, the lead singer looked much different than you’d expect. He’s an intense frontman, eyes shifting from closed to glaring. Scary? Maybe a little, but their short set went off without a hitch and was well received from the crowd. Not bad fr their first Seattle appearance.
Next up were headliners Friendly Fires. Much different than the previous two bands, Friendly Fires finally brought a dance vibe to the night. It takes a lot to move a Seattle crowd, but I haven’t seen Neumo’s this jumpy in a while. It was good to see the normally sedentary Seattle crowds dancing for once. The band mentioned, when I talked to them afterward, they thought this was particularly cool. The stage setup was very unique with the lead singer keyboard and drum stations almost connected and various drum pieces and keyboards littered throughout. From the opening beat, the lead singer danced feverishly and urged the crowd to get into it. They loved being close to the audience and jumping into the crowd even seemed okay for their guitar player. This was definitely the most energetic group of the night. I was curious to hear how their amazing album would translate live and was definitely not disappointed. They captured the essence of their new album and even expanded on quite a few of the live versions. It was exceptionally good and there were smiles on everyone’s faces as they ended their set with a raucous encore. French-electro at its finest. Don’t miss a chance to see this band!
For a Tuesday night, this was an amazing show and a fun way to kick off the Spring concert schedule. When we had a chance to talk to Friendly Fires guitar player Edd, he recounted a particularly cool story about the first time they were here in Seattle. He said they were riding in the van and actually heard one of their songs being played on KEXP. This is literally how they discovered the station. The rest, as we say, is history.