Nothing But Thieves could almost be forgiven for taking things slightly easier on themselves tonight as they take to the stage at the Leadmill. They’ve had to recently reschedule several dates due to lead singer Conor’s illness but even more excitingly, the offer of a guest slot supporting arena and festival headline hoggers Muse on their huge European tour. This meant the Sheffield date was bumped across a weekend and that now the band had arrived hot on the heels of a date at Manchester Arena and the actual O2 rather than just the usual O2 academies. To switch from huge arena audience support slot to intimate venue could be tricky, but not for Nothing But Thieves and their setlist.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First off we have support bands Black Foxxes and Sundara Karma to warm us up. Black Foxxes are the more raucous of the two, with some old school rock and metal stylings and a touch of the Cobains, Grohls or Followills in their look and delivery. “Husk” is full on emotive rock whilst their more haunting track “River” reminded me of the teenage grunge I’d grown up with, fresh from Seattle, or Placebo at their most earnest. Check them out on twitter, soundcloud and their website.
Sundara Karma are a more dream-like affair, all four band members sporting an elfin look of long hair and faraway gazes. Standout track and latest single “A Young Understanding” is like Joy Division meets Razorlight, being uplifting and celebratory whilst also slightly dark at heart. They have an impressive back catalogue of equally joyous and engaging anthems which put them ahead of many new and upcoming indie pop bands.
Possibly their least interesting thing is their name which sounds slightly Kula Shaker hippy mysticism when in fact their material is far more intriguing. Check them out live across the summer or via social networks like twitter, YouTube or their website.
By the time Nothing But Thieves take to the stage (late, but we’ve already waiting across that extra weekend anyway), the crowd is hungrier than ever and the band don’t disappoint, with a setlist which takes us through the highs of their debut self-titled album. Big singles like “Itch” and “Excuse Me” are woven into the set along with a tribute Pixies cover (“Where is My Mind” – fits their style perfectly without much reworking needed) and a few of the lower key album tracks which the audience still dutifully sings along to.
By the time they reach the last pre-encore song, their best and biggest hit by far “Wake Up Call”, they’ve reached a real high point. Some albums and setlists can get away with having just one huge standout track and whilst Nothing But Thieves do have other great songs in their canon so far, this is a real creative and commercial zenith. Played live, it has an even fresher and instant hook to it and even though Conor’s mic gets slightly disconnected, it doesn’t stop the band bringing the house down before the obligatory pretend-disappearance-and-reappearance.
They relaunch with the tenderly sweet “If I Get High” which soars beautifully and allows Conor to exercise some of his vocal gymnastics – he’s basically the indie world’s Mariah Carey – and also allows the band a bit of banter as a bittersweet riff is slightly, accidentally mangled, bringing character to what could otherwise have been a workmanlike job, doing the contractual obligations of a smaller tour which is now slightly in the way of their huge arena support slot. This never comes across during the set, as the band are on top form and Conor is thankful and appreciative to his audience. Fan favourites “Trip Switch” and “Ban All the Music” bring their set and the evening to a rousing finish before the band head off back on tour, in a few days to Manchester again, this time the O2 Ritz rather than the arena. This sums the band up perfectly, caught somewhere on the cusp of being huge, with a great debut album, flattering comparisons with their fellow tour mates Muse and a brilliant live sound which needs checking out.
• Graveyard Whistling
• Excuse Me
• Honey Whiskey
• Where Is My Mind? (Pixies cover)
• Drawing Pins
• Tempt You (Evocatio)
• Wake Up Call
• If I Get High
• Trip Switch
• Ban All the Music