NME ShockWaves Awards Tour : Manchester Academy

When it hits your town, you can only predict a full-on riot...

Pitting nutzoid-pop against visceral art-rock, Sunderland tri-harmonies against Sin City synths, this year’s NME Awards Tour is a four-band face-off like no other. When it hits your town, you can only predict a full-on riot. Tonight Manchester gets nothing less. When Leeds tykes The Kaiser Chiefs get round to bashing out that self-fulfilling mutant-pop anthem it’s still pre-watershed, but their opening set comes within a B&H’s width of stealing the show completely. Like Dexy’s Midnight Runners fronted by a less Mockney-twattish ‘Parklife’-era Damon – with a dash of ‘Hunky Dory’-era Bowie for good measure – they’re little short of phenomenal. ‘Na Na Na Na Naa’ is more naggingly catchy than the Crazy Frog ringtone, while ‘Oh My God’ sees singer Ricky Wilson, clad in a school blazer, stagger across the stage like an amphed-up zombie. Permanently wry of grin, it’s clear he just knows his band’s travelling on a one-way ticket straight to the big league.

Speaking of which, with chart ubiquity and Kate Moss (probably) lurking round the corner, you’re willing Kele Okereke to display even a smidgen of Borrellian swagger during Bloc Party’s equally sensational set. As if. Instead he simply concentrates on seizing the moment. ‘Helicopter’ and ‘Banquet’ – spiralling post-punk dreadnaughts driven by colossal bass rumbles – are tight without sounding over-polished, raw without resorting to mindless feedback. With the debut album of the year set for lift-off and an increasing sense of momentum, it’d take a self-destruction of Pete proportions for Bloc Party not to become the band of 2005.

While we’re on the subject of tragic falls from grace, half-way through The Futureheads’ exuberant punk-funk opener ‘Le Garage’, guitarist Ross Millard’s trademark specs tumble to the floor only to be unceremoniously stomped on by singer Barry Hyde, rendering him totally blind. Fortunately his band’s set suffers no such loss of focus. Taut riffs wrestle with gloriously-accented barbershop harmonies on ‘A To B’, while the angular jerkathon ‘Decent Days And Nights’ sends the assembled throng into wild jitter-spasms. After a couple of years of slog on the toilet circuit, new single (and tonight’s standout) ‘Hounds Of Love’ should see them finally burst through the pearly gates of the Top 20.

This is in contrast to The Killers’ remarkably swift ascent to prominence. Everything just seems to be falling into place for the Las Vegas quartet and, typically, this continues tonight. Brandon Flowers is at his most knicker-wettingly debonair, gliding round the stage like the son Morrissey never knew he had. ‘Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine’ and ‘Somebody Told Me’ sound like Duran Duran from a parallel universe where they kicked the coke and became Mormons. We’ll even forgive them for ‘Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll’.

Returning for the encore in a snazzy pink jacket, Brandon then proceeds to lead the good-vibes sermon of ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’. After a whirlwind year that’s seen them climb to the UK album chart summit and rub shoulders with Hollywood’s A-list, it becomes clear tonight that this is not just a tour for The Killers, but a three-week lap of honour in the land where they made their name.

Rick Martin