Our best solo artist bids farewell to London with a little help from a certain friend. Astoria, London (February 27)
Tonight begins with a heavenly apparition. No, the bar didn’t open early – it’s just that SoKo is undoubtedly an angel. Despite the Kimya Dawson similarities, there’s nothing moldy about this peach (hur hur hur); she’s got an impossible voice that, in any logical world, would be coming out of the beak of a baby chicken. Contrast that with songs about abortion and uncertain love and you get a winning combination. She’s going to be a cult hero, especially if they’re planning a Juno sequel set in Montmartre. Vive la France!
Like The Maccabees playing underwater, Talk Taxis win the award for the most proactive PR campaign on the bill as, before the night is over, practically the entire crowd is smothered in their stickers. They’re a bit awful and there’s a dangerous hint of ska involved, but at the moment that doesn’t seem to matter. Thankfully there are also lashings of scuffling, angry-young-man guitars, bounding harmonies and welcome oddball moments that prove they’re not taking this entirely seriously.
Noah And The Whale’s set tonight is in serious danger of being overshadowed by Laura Marling’s rather spectacular new haircut but they prevail, thanks in part to her mesmerising backing vocals. It’s The Pogues quaffing Sunny Delight instead of whisky; it’s a melody overdose; it’s anti-anti-folk – which is odd, considering Adam Green called to say he wants his vocals back before he takes them on tour. On record they’re a waltzing slice of pop loveliness, but live they turn their amps up to foxtrot and are transformed into a whirlwind of crazy foot-stamping, reeling, folk eccentricities. Their fiddle player is perhaps the coolest person in rock right now, and as the crowd bellow their approval it’s hard to see how on earth things can get better than this.
As it happens it can, and as a result a generic review in regards to tonight’s headliner would be borderline sacrilege. Oh yes, lovely lovely Kate Nash plays some lovely lovely songs for our soft fluffy ears. ‘Foundations’, ‘Birds’ – a familiar drill that’s all very lovely. Boyzone are playing here in a few nights’ time, and we doubt the amount of girlish screaming will rival this. But this isn’t just any old gig. She’s wearing a black dress tonight, Heat readers, but, for those of you not preoccupied with the misadventures of Preston and Chantelle, this evening’s highlight can be summed up in two words: Billy Bragg. Oh yes, fascist-bashing, guitar-toting, romantic poet laureate of the people and near-Godlike legend. Letters of appreciation and all-round adoration to the usual address, readers, this year’s Shockwaves NME Awards Shows have excelled themselves.
While it might be slightly hypocritical of a man who was recently quoted in the press bemoaning the necessity of wacky antics to ensure continued relevancy to let a pop princess warble all over ‘A New England’ – indisputably one of the greatest songs of all time – it’s an endearingly winning combination. Despite her gratuitous expletives, Kate’s demeanour recalls nothing so much as a small kitten, and Bragg brings the edge that tips tonight’s performance into perfection – it’s practically punk. After this stunning climax the remaining setlist could be entitled ‘This Is For The Poor: A Dominic Masters Retrospective’ and we’d still be gazing on in misty-eyed wonder. Music at its finest, you lucky people.