The Long Blondes: Arts Centre, Norwich; Sunday, October 1

Sheffield polka-tykes become the stars they always believed they were

It’s 2006 and the indieverse is orbiting within some fantastical realms. From The Horrors’ 19th-century trench-coat mafia to Klaxons’ flourescent astro-unicorn utopias, everyone’s been sacking off realism for their own brand of imaginary cool. Quite right too, in NME’s opinion – today’s Planet Earth is a pretty horrid and shameful place to be, all suicide-bombs and neo-colonialism, so screw reality, vivre l’escapism!

Tonight the flyer may say Norwich, but Steel City fantasists The Long Blondes know better. They’re taking us deep into the mind of a dusty-fingered Britpop fanatic via post-war Parisian bohemia and a quality charity shop. At the helm of this brave journey is indie’s new Queen. It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a woman as cocky and hip as Kate Jackson and tonight, dressed in trademark gold stripes and hot pants tighter than Pete Doherty’s life insurance, she’s treating her subjects to a glorious, pouting performance. She woos an adoring audience with just a flick of the hair and a shake of the hips, and by the time opener ‘Lust In The Movies’ settles into the first of this evening’s thousand heart-clutching choruses, we’re smitten.

While Kate vamps her way through arch disco-stompers like ‘Weekend Without Makeup’, Reenie (wry-eyebrowed bassist), Dorian (new-wave guitar sailor covered in tattoos and anchors), Emma (glitterball on axe and keys) and Screech (Revenge Of The Nerds with drumsticks) all prowl like the last gang at the bring & buy sale. It’s clear that the idiotic party poopers who’ve spent six months mythologizing this band’s supposed inability to keep time, play chords, hit notes or do anything as dull as be professional have done little to smudge their thick foundation of glitzy cool. They’re never going to be ‘musicians’ like The Raconteurs, but this is a group for whom imperfections inspire as much love as getting it right. Their set may take the occasional wonder into landmine territory, but mostly tonight is, at the very least, a series of controlled explosions.

At their feet an army of admirers dance coyly with grins stitched on their faces and cheer on the five as they sashay beautifully – if not effortlessly – into the role of headliners. ‘Giddy Stratospheres’ is a pepped-up pogo classic, while ‘Separated By Motorways’ sees a hundred throats strain to sing along behind tastefully spotted neckerchiefs. In ‘Fullwood Babylon’ they even have their own heartbreaker – an Oxfam ‘Maps’.

She’s always looked every inch the idol, but where Kate’s voice once dissolved, now it bellows like a tuneful foghorn, leading the band rather than skipping along for the ride. Not that some of the crowd can see beyond her shapely pins. “I saw her panties on three occasions!” leers a young indie kid to his female friend with rolling eyes as they scurry from the venue. Typical, he’s just witnessed a master class of sophisto-pop and all this dirty-minded man can think about is the singer’s legs. Clearly this is a world in need of transformation. Kate Jackson and The Long Blondes are offering you a ticket to their world of class and glamour, don’t bother paying the return fare.

Alex Miller

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