Elbow/The Duke Spirit/¡Forward, Russia!/Larrikin Love: Astoria, London, Tuesday, February 21

The widest range of thrills to be had on any London stage

Elbow NME Awards Shows 2006 Astoria, London
There may have been a hugely varied array of bands on display at the ShockWaves NME Awards Shows these past two weeks but, really, there’s little doubt that tonight is the king of all diverse bills. Headlined by Guy Garvey and his self-proclaimed “daddies of modern indie music” (© last week’s NME), it boasts an assorted support bill of demented disco and dark rock that’s kicked off in fine style by young upstarts Larrikin Love. Grinning and fiddling their way through ‘Happy As Annie’, they’re like a Coral you can dance stupidly to, providing a country/ska/skiffle/rock mesh-up that brilliantly succeeds in being as flummoxing as it is fun.

¡Forward, Russia! look ready to eclipse the achievements of their Yorkshire rivals over the next 12 months. They’ve streamlined their disco-noise and sound gargantuan, lending the likes of last single ‘Twelve’ an anthemic quality that wasn’t present before. It’s the first time they’ve played in front of this many people for a while – and it suits them.

Having played a headline show at this venue all by themselves not so long ago, The Duke Spirit look aloof and at ease with a crowd of this size. They punctuate a powerful set of highlights from the now-nearly-a-year-old ‘Cuts Across The Land’ album with four new songs, of which ‘Neptune’ is the pick. Last year they were mere contenders; now they’re confirmed highlights of any bill they may find themselves on.

But of course, the night really belongs to one band, and Elbow’s set is the embarrassment of riches you’d expect. ‘Station Approach’, a delicate ‘Fugitive Motel’, ‘Mexican Standoff’ and even an “experimental” new song are all greeted by this scarily devoted crowd with an attentive silence, broken only by Guy Garvey’s wisecracks. “We respect the French… and therefore the encore,” he reassures them before an epic, set-closing version of ‘Newborn’. Returning to the stage, he’s nearly conned into resurrecting the band’s Radio 1 Live Lounge version of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Independent Women Part 1’ by his disciples’ playful jeering, but a sweeping, suitably climatic ‘Forget Myself’ more than suffices. The young blood did good tonight, but by the end it’s pretty clear who the daddies are.

Hamish MacBain

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