I like the Roundhouse. If you can accept the compromised sight lines and sound, there’s something kind of cool about watching a band in an engine shed. It’s run by a charitable trust, which means it’s looked after; your feet don’t stick to the floor. Tonight, the giant dome is hosting the NME Awards Tour 2017, sponsored by VO5 – a fact that single-handedly makes it sound the least rock ‘n’ roll thing to exist since Tony Blackburn.
Gracing the tour are a triumvirate of artists from the North West: Rory Wynne, Cabbage and Blossoms. I’m primarily here for the latter two: Blossoms are everywhere and Cabbage are a band I never stop hearing about. Wynne was an unknown quantity, but based on the brief amount I saw and heard, certainly an artist deserving of further inspection another time.
Cabbage, a politically charged post-punk band from Mossley, might not be considered natural bedfellows for the jolly sound of Blossoms – but the combo must work in some sense as this isn’t the first time they’ve toured together. That said, I did wonder what a front row comprising almost exclusively of well-manicured teenage girls made of frontman Lee Broadbent’s invitation to “Suck on my Northern balls” as he took to the stage.
At least the ladies on the barrier didn’t have to get their heads around being covered in flour or watching a gimp being led around by a dog lead as has been the case at some of Cabbage’s smaller gigs. Broadbent also normally spends much of his time in the audience, but shortly before the tour started he fractured his Pubic Rami (don’t ask, I’ve no idea what it is either). This meant some compromised mobility left him stage bound, though an expected entrance in a wheelchair didn’t materialise. I’ve no idea how he injured himself. Perhaps someone at a previous gig carried out the ball-sucking invitation too enthusiastically.
With titles such as Uber Capatalist Death Trade and Free Steven Avery, you know this band actually has something to say; and with titles such as Terrorist Synthesizer and Grim Up North (Korea), you know they’re prepared to be tongue in cheek whilst doing it. In an overtly safe musical environment almost entirely bereft of truly original dissention, Cabbage are a blot on the landscape; a hastily built nuclear power station in the home counties. You welcome the power, but you’re shit scared about what might happen next. Did the audience in the Roundhouse truly get it? No, probably not. Were they meant to? No, probably not.
Looking around the venue tonight, it’s easy to see how Blossoms have got so popular, so quickly. Their brand of guitar/keyboard infused indie pop is authentic enough to suck in a teen audience whilst being so outrageously catchy that their parents are also gyrating to it whilst they do the dishes. Blossoms are a tight band with a good sound (Roundhouse acoustics notwithstanding) and their set list of sixteen tunes was very well executed tonight – as was the lighting design, which was highly dynamic throughout.
Bangers At Most A Kiss, Texia and Blow had them leave the blocks at full speed and drew corresponding enthusiasm from the crowd, but whilst the music was strong, for me the performance lacked a little dynamism as a whole. Singer Tom Ogden runs a tight ship, but if you want a frontman with the swagger of Liam Gallagher, you need to be looking elsewhere. The TV in his hotel room is definitely for watching, not launching out of a window. Still, he’s got undeniably lovely hair and I’m sure that pleases the sponsors.
Part way through, the band departed. Ogden plus a solo acoustic guitar were joined by Robin Dewhurst (father of guitarist Josh Dewhurst), who played keyboards for Stormy and My Favourite Room. Ogden demanded complete silence for these numbers but I hope he didn’t expect to actually get it as he’d have been very disappointed. Robin played some mean keys, though watching him sat behind his little keyboard I couldn’t get the thought of John Shuttleworth out of my head. They segued out of the acoustic songs via short renditions of Imagine and Half A World Away. It was a nice touch but for me a lot of momentum was lost.
They played Charlemagne last, whereupon the momentum was very rapidly regained. Hands were thrown into the air and it’s safe to say everyone knew this song. Mind you, that’s hardly surprising. Charlemagne has received so much mainstream exposure that Osama Bin Laden would probably be dancing around his wind-up radio to it right now had his interest in accessible indie pop not been brought to a premature end by US Navy SEALs.
There was no encore, a fact that everybody seemed to know in advance as the populous dived for the exit within seconds of the final note being played. On the way out, a concertgoer was staring into her mobile phone and swearing at it. It appeared her three-minute video of Charlemagne hadn’t gone as well as she’d hoped. There’s a moral in there somewhere.
Review & Photography by Simon Reed. Cabbage/Blossoms at The Roundhouse on 23rd March 2017.
Simon has his own music photography site here: http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk