XFM Winter Wonderland - Manic Street Preachers / Suede / White Lies / Two Door Cinema Club / Drums

Brixton Academy, London on Wed 15th Dec 2010

Despite the Baltic weather conditions that had hit London, XFM's London leg of their Winter Wonderland gigs went off with a bang and a sold-out evening at the iconic Brixton Academy.

Unfortunately I missed the first act that Xfm is championing as the next big thing in 2011, Mona, however I arrived just before 7pm in time to catch quirky foursome, The Drums.

It was incredibly easy to get right up front in the stage area, as the venue was only partially filled, most probably due to a combination of bad weather/transport conditions, and people struggling to get out of work early during the midweek rush.

Nonetheless the guys gave a really entertaining and enthusiastic performance and made a good effort at warming up the post-work crowd.

Their summertime anthem, 'Let's Go Surfing', especially got the whole place jumping and bouncing about, mirroring the guys onstage who were throwing themselves about with immense gusto.

They ended their set with one of their more serene ballads, 'Down by The Water', during which one of the guitarists provided an entertaining interpretive dance in the backdrop.

Next up were lively Irish band, Two Door Cinema Club. I had seen them for the first time this year at Oxegen Festival in their home country and was extremely glad I got the opportunity to catch them again before year end.

As before, they delivered a bouncing set with their dance, indie tracks that got the whole crowd pumped up and ready for the headliners.

In between acts I took some time to notice the price increase for drinks at the venue, as well as the real mixture in the crowd. As the event was not just for over-18s there were a lot of parents with their offspring, as well as the usual indie youth, and a slightly older crowd who had just come for The Manic Street Preachers alone.

I was asked by a group of fifteen year olds to buy them some booze – that certainly made me feel old!

White Lies were on next and played an impressive set of tracks from their debut album. Experiencing the vocals and instruments live was a surprising treat and injected the tunes with a passion and musical strength that isn't portrayed on the album. They ended on their smash hit, 'Death', which had the whole venue flailing about and going wild.

The surprise act for the evening had been revealed as nineties legends, Suede, who were also presented with XFM's Inspirational Award for being an influence and inspiration to other bands and XFM listeners.

Unfortunately, for the first time in 30 years their drummer Simon Gilbert was not with them as he had been taken ill. The guys were clearly moved with receiving their award though and lead singer, Brett Anderson, told the crowd that "Back in 1990 we would listen to XFM and want to be on it so this award is really nice. Thanks."

Because of the lack of percussion the guys opted to play an acoustic set, which was a choice I was very nervous about knowing Suede's music. However it was a really moving and vocally beautiful production and when they played 'Beautiful Ones' I felt like I was reliving my youth with the other crowd members who were swaying along and belting out the lyrics.

Admittedly, there were a lot of early teens who were looking at us like we were actually mental. Suede's set was a lot shorter than I expected but there was obviously only so much they could do without Gilbert and I thought it was extremely admirable that they didn't pull out but still performed a modest but entertaining set.

A quick interlude saw XFM presenter David Berry come onstage to an audience of mostly boos, which I have to admit I was surprised by, to get the audience to all take a picture of the stage on their phones simultaneously for the XFM website.

Finally it was the main event and the crowd raised the roof with noise as the veterans, Manic Street Preachers took to the stage. The ever flamboyant Nicky Wire was adorned with a fur coat, and had his mic stand completely covered in flowers from top to bottom.

Admittedly I'm not the biggest fan but they showed why they have been in the business for so long. The whole band was really good at getting the crowd hyped up and jumping about; and they played an eclectic set of their chart-topping hits mixed with some of their lesser known tunes.

These more obscure tunes had a dedicated pit of hardcore fans moshing about right at the stage front. Admittedly the slower tracks left the atmosphere amongst the punters a bit stagnant and I think it's fair to say that The Manic fans really loved the rock-enthused tracks and performances that the Welsh trio delivered; the band themselves really got into the performance taking complete control of the stage.

Unfortunately I was not able to stay until the end and a few people were starting to filter out already but from what I saw '(It's not War), Just the End of Love...' was the tune had the crowd really rocking out.

On the way out I was treated to freebie gifts care of Cuervo Tequila, who were involved in the event too, in the form of a Mexican straw hat and bright yellow bandana, which was a nice touch... as free stuff always is!

All in all, it was a well organised event with a brilliant line-up and a fun-loving crowd to enjoy it and mingle with. XFM definitely helped my Christmas kick off with a big smile on my face.

article by: Fiona Madden

published: 21/12/2010 11:54


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