This side of the pond, the Barclaycard Mercury Prize is a pretty big deal. Get recognition from this prestigious organization and you know you’re on your way to the big time. In a bid to celebrate the up-and-comers of British and Irish music, the organization have put together a series of intimate live performances to be aired on UK national television.
Opening the show at The Hospital Club is the shaggy-haired duo that goes by the name of Drenge. Sauntering on stage like a pair of moody teens, they rip straight through the acoustics as they launch into a deafening set of feral post grunge. Are there really on two people on that stage?
With thundering drums and blistering guitar, these two brothers sure know how to rock out. We get slight respite during ‘Fuckabout’, a bleak love song that sings of a doomed relationship, but its penultimate track ‘Let’s Pretend’ that proves the standout number. The song follows a marathon path from slow to fast, soft to deafening, as we get treated to shredding guitar solos and grungy goodness.
Clearly not here to lap up their newfound fame, the thirty-minute set seems more reminiscent of a practice session in their parent’s basement than anything else – which is refreshing in the showy world of rock and roll. Barely a word is spoken between the pair as they glide through a headbanging set, each song featuring a heavy interlude that somehow manages to break the sound barrier even further.
Relatively new on the block, Broken Bells are a supergroup collaboration between James Mercer of the The Shins and artist-producer Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse – neither of whom need much introduction. Joined by a full band when performing live, the group couldn’t be less like the former act, neither in sound nor style.
This is a duo of true musicians. Collectively, Broken Bells are smooth, sophisticated and professional. Mercer is flawless on the vocals, jumping from octave to octave to reach uncanny heights in his upper range. Meanwhile, Danger Mouse shows us the extent of his talent by switching regularly from percussion to bass to keys, his perfectly shaped ‘fro bobbing along to the beat.
Their set is a mixture of tracks from their latest album, After the Disco, including ‘Addicted to Love’, ‘Holding on for Life’ and ‘Leave it Alone’. Slower, quiet numbers are interspersed with bouncy disco tracks in a series of deep-lyriced tunes brightened up with a healthy slice of groove.
Bombay Bicycle Club take to the stage looking slightly like a lost group of students from east London’s hipster districts. The members still look so youthful, despite having been going for a good nine years now. And yet their sound, which has developed tremendously during the band’s lifespan, suggests otherwise.
Fusing Britpop, reggae and African beats doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, but it works for Bombay Bicycle Club. We are now witnessing the band’s experimental phase, as they switch the pretty acoustic numbers of Flaws with rhythmic tunes drawn from a global spectrum.
Frontman Jack Steadman is note-perfect as his tuneful, distinctive croak rings out across the studio, while two sweet-sounding female recruits help with backing vocals and the occasional duet. But what really sets this performance alive is the eclectic musical sounds and over-emphasized percussion, particularly during new single ‘Feel’ which has a strangely likeable Bollywood resonance to it.
Concluding the evening with new track ‘Carry Me’, the band gives us one final twist as they crank up the bass and give it their all in a surprisingly ravey finale of indulgent musical ODing.