This was the first time NME’s annual Awards Tour has visited Glasgow since the magazine became a free sheet. They might have considered giving tickets away too – downgraded last minute from the Barrowlands to the smaller O2 ABC, the show was sparsely attended, at least during the first three of four acts on the bill.
NME Awards Tour | Rating: ** | O2 ABC, Glasgow
Hitherto always a celebration of new talent, in recent years the Awards Tour has switched tack to welcome returning heroes as headliners. In 2016 London indie-rock quartet Bloc Party, who last did an NME omnibus junket back in 2005 circa the release of their debut album.
Before them there were sets from Manchester grime MC Bugzy Malone and charmingly monikered teenage ska-punk scruff Rat Boy, both of whom always had their work cut out playing to so few people. Derbyshire grungey alt-rock trio Drenge brought volume and intensity, but if they’re any standard-bearers for new British guitar music – which they effectively were by default tonight – then British guitar music is in a perilously uninspired state.
It helped lift spirits little that Bloc Party – half of their original line-up recently replaced with new members – were promoting what critics overwhelmingly agree is their weakest album yet in Hymns. Undeterred they played plenty of it, trudging dutifully through the likes of cod-blues number The Good News and frigid electro-rocker Virtue.
It’s never unwelcome hearing spiky indie-disco anthems like Banquet and Helicopter on the other hand, but those songs are each over a decade old. If the NME stands for anything anymore then surely it ought to be pleasures much fresher than that.