Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park and The Cribs kick off the hottest tour in Britain in typically explosive form
The locals thought they had this one sewn up a long time ago. In 1485, when the Lancastrian wannabe Henry Tudor picked up the English crown on Bosworth Field and thus settled the War Of The Roses, he settled Lancashire and Yorkshire’s rivalry once and for all. Manchester were the winners, relegating Leeds to muse on what might have been. Or so they thought.
Since then, the Mancs have enjoyed the better football teams, Corrie and ruled music, with Joy Division, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Oasis all going largely unanswered by their north-eastern neighbours. Tonight, 4,000 Mancunians had reason to think again.
Celebrating the finest new talent to emerge in 2005, the 02 NME Rock’n’Roll Riot Tour has a defiantly north-eastern air. The Cribs and Kaiser Chiefs’ arrival from the burgeoning Leeds music scene has filled our pages since the Chiefs’ show-stealing turn on the NME Awards Tour back in January, while arty Geordies Maximo Park have shot to fame in similarly rapid fashion. From NME’s Radar pages to a huge tour which sold out in a matter of hours; tonight, this trio make up the hottest ticket in town.
“I’m really excited and nervous,” admits Kaisers’ frontman Ricky Wilson before the doors open. “You hear about record sales, but it’s only when you do your own shows that you think, ‘We have come a long way.’”
The Cribs’ soundman must have come a long way too, but sadly not quickly enough tonight, as the three-piece are forced to contend with a horrid, sludgy sound for their first three songs, as if no-one is mixing them. However, these guys are fighters, and once the knobs have been twiddled, ‘Martell’ and ‘The Wrong Way To Be’ suggest there’s an indie-rock band on a par with Pavement or Ash bursting to get out. These days, it feels as if The Cribs take a giant leap forward with every performance, and they ensure the tour lives up to its title. It might be the first set of the first night but a rock’n’roll riot is guaranteed when a caterwaul of feedback and guitars crunching into amps ends The Cribs’ set.
Maximo Park were never going to do riot – Paul Smith confides to NME with typical bookishness that the only time he’d visited the Apollo was for “an English conference” – but their set is not without drama.
Stalking the stage like a wounded panther, Smith veers between unburdening his anguish, and suddenly lashing out with vicious scissor kicks. It’s a compelling combination, fuelling the intensity that burns through songs like ‘Waste Land’ and ‘Going Missing’. Watching this band’s evolution from awkward Geordies into the people’s favourite eyebrow-archers has been intriguing. Realising they’re no Mercury Prize fluke, hipsters in hoops join glammed-up girls and soccer hooligans in yelling out bittersweet closer ‘Apply Some Pressure’. “What happens when you lose everything?” sings Smith. “You start all over again”, comes back loudly. Whisper it, Maximo Park are becoming a big band.
But Kaiser Chiefs are a big band – so big now in fact, even Ricky Wilson is struggling to keep up. “I don’t think anyone in the band realises how much we’ve achieved and how big we’ve got. It’s really weird,” he says backstage. “I think of bands that are smaller than us of being bigger than us.
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I read NME and I’m like, ‘Wow!’ These guys are massive!
I think we’re secretly big. ”The secret’s out, as the 4,000 sweaty Mancs who witness the Yorkshire tykes triumph will tell you. That success has been built soundly on the fact that whatever else they do, the Chiefs are fundamentally an incredibly good live band, as Glastonbury proved. Tonight is no exception, and with ‘Saturday Night’, ‘Sink That Ship’ and next single ‘Modern Way’ in their opening salvo, any sense of the indie kids who once couldn’t believe their luck to be on the NME Awards Tour is gone. Kaiser Chiefs are now headliners, well deserving of the hollering “Chief, Chief, Chief!” chants.
‘You Can Have It All’ sees Wilson serenading his girlfriend onstage in the final chorus. It would be cheesy in most people’s hands, but because you know if they weren’t onstage the Kaisers would actually be in the mosh with the rest of us, Wilson’s smooch seems no different to the couples snogging in the crowd.
‘I Predict A Riot’ sees the Chiefs drowned out by their audience, while ‘Caroline, Yes’ proves an unexpected torch song accompanied by lighters. Starting B-side ‘Take My Temperature’ at the mixing desk, Ricky crowd-surfs his way to the stage illuminated by the band’s new massive lighting rig.
“Have you seen our production?” enquires Ricky later. “It’s amazing. We’ve got a proper big rock production. It looks like Queen, and that’s where we’re going… see I say that and I think about reading NME. That’s the pull quote, isn’t it?”
With the band’s ‘Help: A Day In The Life’ album contribution ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ getting its live debut, and ‘Oh My God’’s deafening sing-a-long, this is clearly no trick of the lights.
“Scream if you’ve had a good time,” demands Ricky and is immediately met by a banshee chorus, as together with Maximo Park and The Cribs, the Kaisers run amok on Manc soil. Hooky, Ian Brown, Liam Gallagher, Guy Garvey: tonight, your boys took one hell of a beating. World, you’re next.