Support band try to topple headliners in rock/rave face-off for supremacy
“B ehold my rave hand!” roars Ian Watkins as he proudly thrusts forth five digits covered in flashy fingerlights, shooting piercing rays of light into the darkness of the Astoria in a declaration of neon futurism, pledging allegiance to the Day-Glo zeitgeist.
But wait a minute, this is Ian Watkins. Not ex-Steps Ian ‘H’ Watkins, although they probably do spend a similar amount on hair-styling, but he of Lostprophets, of jutting cheekbones and coiffured fringe, singer of hardcore punk, ex of Fearne Cotton, staunch advocate of no-nonsense noise. This is the rock night of the Shockwaves NME Awards Shows season. Since when did he get in on the rave act? Very little is making sense anymore…
Support band Enter Shikari offer some explanation. The last time the (happy) hardcore played the Astoria, they had made history by selling the place out as headliners after only one single. The place was doused in green lasers, people boshed like maniacs, and it felt like the dawning of a new age. They don’t have the same production tonight, instead gimping about in front of orange Lostprophets pillars, so while you can’t woop at the pyro, it’s a valuable reminder that this lot are no gimmick. Beneath a spectacular fusion of old rave and letterbomb riffs beats a heart of purest song. And they have them in spades: the emotronic ‘Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour’, the harebrained ‘Return To Energizer’, and the poptastic ‘Johnny Sniper’, the latter sure to be soundtracking a car crash on Top Gear soon. The four lads foaming at the mouth onstage are having as much fun as the gurning throng beneath them. And if they’re thinking, ‘Fuck me, that’s innovative’, it’s because midway through the show Radio 1’s Dan Carter pipes up onstage and presents them with the John Peel NME Award For Innovation.
Lostprophets would have reason to be scared after this, looking every bit like rock establishment about to be toppled by these young clowns. But the shiny hair and skyscraping choruses of their more recent American adventures cloud the fact that this band came from a very similar place: not Pontyridd – but the fervent urge to make hardcore futuristic and glamorous; as roaring oldie ‘Shinobi Vs Dragon Ninja’ demonstrates. But Lostprophets work better as a pop group, and so play a couple of cheeky covers: their regular take on Duran Duran’s ‘Planet Earth’ and a well-groomed version of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Sin’.
Watkins and his merry men career around like men possessed, drawing randomly from their enviable catalogue ‘Everyday Combat’, ‘Rooftops’, ‘Going Underground’ and ‘Start Something’. Not many indie wastrels can match these choruses. It’s this confidence, along with the hardcore community’s trademark niceness, that leads to Ian, fist festooned with flashing red lights, into such an act of proud solidarity. Better still, as the final encore of ‘Burn, Burn’ explodes into life, the stage is invaded by both Enter Shikari and the other supporters tonight, Kids In Glass Houses, bounding about like panzers, united by the power of rock, or rave, or pop, or whatever. Tonight we lucky few thousand witness genre-bending future rave emo sounds at their very best.