Well it was the big one last night XFM’s Winter Wonderland at the Apollo in Manchester! With a mega line-up this was always going to a great night, and so it proved to be, not only great bands but also raising money for the War Child charity.
With six bands on the bill and an early 6.30pm start it was going to be a struggle to fit them all in and with the traffic backed up on the way into Manchester ment I missed Findlay. So from the back of the Apollo I watched Spector take to the stage, I don’t confess to being a fan and on seeing them live don’t think I’ll be one any time soon. I don’t get this geek chic thing the front man plays on and the music just doesn’t do it for me. The kids down the front seemed to enjoy it though – maybe it’s just me!
Next up after the usual stage rearrangements were local boys Delphic who yet again proved what a great band they are live, with only a 20 minute slot the set was short and to the point containing new material, including Baiya, with its breakbeat vibe and great vocal harmonies and Atlas with its bluesy riff and epic sound alongside classic Delphic tracks Halcyon, Doubt with its warped vocal start and New Order-esc guitar and traditional set closer Counterpoint which got everybody in the groove nicely.
Next up were another local band, Everything Everything, who I saw a couple of years ago support Delphic and to be honest passed me by and I hadn’t heard anything since that made me sit up and take notice. In fairness they impressed me last night with their 80’s influenced electronica, hip hop beats and falsetto vocaled tunes. Suffragette Suffragette was a stand out track with a serious guitar riff and also a new track called Radiant which I really enjoyed. I’ll be revisiting these guys and look forward to be proved wrong from my first opinion!
Next up and penultimate act of the night saw Newcastle’s finest Maximo Park take to the stage, the last time I caught them was at a hot and sweaty Soundcontrol in the summer, tonight’s stage was a lot bigger but the performance had the same energy, the perfect band to get the crowd bouncing. You can’t take your eyes off front man Paul Smith dressed in his trademark hat, shirt and tie, he’s constantly bouncing, jumping, pointing and hand chopping his was around the stage. I’m just tried watching the guy!
Title track from their latest album The National Health kicked things off with a bang, quickly followed by crowd favourite Apply Some Pressure – cue mass chorus sing-a-long! Hips and Lips with its post-punk snarling riff had the crowd bouncing along with Paul. Books for Boxes was next up and is probably my favourite Maximo Park track, it always reminds me of early Document era REM which is down to that classic Rickenbacker guitar sound. The instantly recognisable synths of Our Velocity cranked up the atmosphere another notch for what was the final song of the set. If you’ve never seen them live I really do think you should!
The lull before Bloc Party was broken up by some large green balls thrown into the crowd from the stage which when popped sent green confetti everywhere. It’s amazing what will keep drunk people amused! Clint Boon then appeared on stage to introduce Bloc Party to chants of Boon Army, Boon Army!!
Opening track was Octopus from latest album Four, on hearing the new album I didn’t really get it and felt they’d gone too far in their progression moving into Muse and at times heavy metal territory but after hearing the tracks live they really do work! That’s the thing with Bloc Party they don’t stick to the usual rules and are prepared to give you something you weren’t expecting and maybe didn’t want but in the end win you over!
Kele announced ‘We are from London, England’ which prompted some playful boo’s from the crowd before launching into Hunting For Witches. Next track So He Begins To Lie is a good example of a new track that I just didn’t get at first but hearing it live it all makes sense and seriously went off with much bouncing and a few brave crowd-surfers. The heavy Song For Clay (Disappear Here) merged into stone-wall Bloc Party classic Banquet which sent the whole of the Apollo crazy. A change of tempo in the form of Coliseum was up next with a bluesy Got My Mojo Workin’ vibe before the song goes nuts in a blaze of Led Zeppelin guitars with shouts and screams from Kele.
Now it was time for something a little different in the form of One More Chance with its old school house piano getting the crowd dancing and hand-clapping along to the beat along with a Kele led crowd sing-a-long. Flux got a bit of a re-working with a Rihanna – We Found Love intro before final song of the night Helicopter, with its spiky angular guitar that made first album Silent Alarm so popular, sending the crowd into over-drive, a great way to end the set and the night. The confetti cannon’s at the end was a little bit x-factor and wasn’t helped by a delay in being deployed!
A great night and big thanks to XFM for putting the night on and rasing money for a great cause – War Child. Who’s up for an XFM Summer Ball?