Live Review: Samsung NME Radar Tour
It's all back to the '80s for this stunning retro-fantastic extravaganza...02 Academy, Oxford, Saturday, May 2
There’s a chap down the front tonight dressed in gold sequins and he’s holding on to the security rail for dear life. He’s here, of course, for the 1980s disco that will be served in just a wee while by the three other bands on a tour that should really be called Rewind, in tribute to the decade in which video killed the radio star. But first, two long hours before he can declare his love for La Roux, this young man, who longs to wiggle at Studio 54, must contend with odd-ones-out The Chapman Family.
It’s not that they don’t evoke the Tories’ favourite decade. Like White Lies, the Chapmans’ mope-rock is rooted in ’80s bedsit gloom, only they hail from a more convincing and chaotic hellhole: one that’s strewn with trenchcoats, supermarket own-brand beer cans and classic literature. Pitching up somewhere between a self-pitying Maximo Park and squally, thunderous NYC no wave, they’re frightening the electro-pop kids who look nervously on as frontman Kingsley attempts to strangle himself with his mic lead and then climbs into the rafters singing how he’d like to “fuck us over”. Poor sod – all this electro-pop is clearly driving him nuts.
Unlike a very normal and very polite Magistrates, who are more likely to be seen reading Heat than anything by Camus and are the first band to put a spring in the dance of our sequined hero. There are two things you should know about this lot: a) frontman Paul Usher, whose falsetto suggests his bollocks are clenched tighter than Jimmy Somerville’s, is wearing a pearl necklace and a vest, and b) their management look after both Alphabeat and Mika. So, if a Prince-ly version of The Feeling is what you’ve been after – and by the crowd’s reaction, many have – Magistrates will (gently) rock your world. The rest of us can admire a skill for penning insanely catchy hooks destined for arenas as they wear us down with the fabulously camp ‘Make This Work’ and the “whoo-ooohing” finale, ‘Colour Co-Ordination’, none of which can possibly prepare us for the next loons.
Making sense of an album some smashed into a million little pieces upon its release, Heartbreak make the doubters repent for such an act. Not only do their electro songs pound harder than John Foxx’s, they’re fronted by the most ludicrous singer since Har Mar stripped to his Y-fronts and did the caterpillar. One-time Argentinean soap star Sebastian Muravchix croons dementedly like a man auditioning for a Shakespeare play through songs that suggest a Falco/Kraftwerk collaboration wouldn’t be such a bad thing, and which could give John Hughes a new lease of life. And when he mouths “I FUCKING love you”, during ‘My Tears Electro’ you get the feeling this is way more than tongue-in-cheek – it’s an obsession. Somebody’d better put them on a main stage this summer.
Having bobbed about like an ADD-afflicted toddler through all that, sequin boy looks fit to explode as La Roux ambles gawkily on, all elbows, shoulder blades and sticky-out limbs. And his triumphant vibes are infectious, because this feels like a real moment in pop. With a performance of gobsmacking intensity, she races through the kind of sharp-edged, euphoric and occasionally dubby electro-disco that makes people whisper, “that’ll be her Number One… actually, maybe that one” after each song, especially ‘I’m Not Your Toy’, ‘Bulletproof’ and ‘Fascination’. That she looks a little like Vyvyan from The Young Ones and displays her prickly side, flicking Vs at male abusers and snapping, “How many times do I have to say I love you?” to needy fans, makes her even more precious. Sequin boy couldn’t look any happier.