Nothing But Thieves

support Pitch Black Spinney Machine
author LF date 23/11/15 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

After having a great time watching this young British pop rock band at this year's Tinderbox Festival, I was happy to see them return for a headlining show in Denmark already within the very same year. With a band that has a vocalist as distinct and talented as Nothing But Thieves' Conor Mason, I always get worried about whether or not they can perform their music just as well live as on record but with their previous good performance in the back of my head, I am willing to test that out once again tonight despite being a bit grumpy from having caught a cold. The local support band of the evening isn't one I've come across before and they don't have a lot of recorded music available online so as I find the optimal spot in the semi-filled venue from which to check them out, I am really hoping that they won't be a waste of my time.

All pictures by Philip B. Hansen

Pitch Black Spinney Machine

Pitch Black Spinney Machine play fast rock music as their singer informs us, and while their name is not the catchiest pick ever, their very rhythmic and upbeat music doesn't have the same problem and thus they quickly have a fair part of the audience bobbing their heads. The duo seems a little imbalanced on stage though with the vocalist and guitarist being the one that moves around and has the main contact with the crowd while the bassist, who also starts and stops their drum machine, is mostly stationary and has his eyes more on his bandmate than on us. The drum machine also deserves some criticism, mainly because it gets harder and harder very quickly to ignore the entirely too similar rhythm and sound that it provides in the different songs they perform tonight. The songs themselves don't exactly consist of a wealth of memorable melodies or lyrical lines to catch my attention instead and after a few songs I find myself thinking more about getting a new drink in the bar than anything else. At least there's a dynamic element in that the band changes the tempo itself across their songs but it doesn't entirely make up for the inorganic stiffness the machine brings to their music. This is a shame as especially the lengthy but skilled guitar solo at the end of the set seems to pull in a different direction but falls short of really engaging this Monday-crowd due to the stiff rhythmic framework it is performed over.

5

Nothing But Thieves

As already mentioned, Nothing But Thieves mostly make an impression through their talented front man Conor Mason and the extremely calculated way the structure of the band's songs support this talent. Just as the last time I saw them perform, I am happy to hear how tight and well-sounding they are tonight, especially considering the far too many bands I watch yearly that struggle with these very fundamental aspects of being a band. From the very beginning, Mason shows off, belting out notes and crescendos in free-form outside of the actual songs and it's simply impossible to not be a little dumbstruck by the ease with which he seems to pull out every note from deep inside his chest throughout the show. As if his talent alone wasn't enough, his round face and naive smile only add more to his charm and believability.

Still, for a relatively young man, he acts very professional on stage, and knowing how many sold-out shows this band has played on this tour, I get a little skeptical when he remarks hurriedly five minutes into the set how we're already one of his favorite crowds to have played for. This leads me to one of the main problems I've had with seeing more popular bands as of late, namely how their shows just lack personality and relatability and come off as slickly professional performances that are hard to get a really memorable experience out of as an audience member. The show tonight turns out to be not quite as problematic in this respect as I initially fear, however. Since they were here half a year ago, Nothing But Thieves have released an extensive, self-titled debut album (reviewed here) and while the venue isn't fully crammed tonight, a good part of the people that have shown up seem to know every one of the band's songs by heart. As the show progresses, this living enthusiasm for the band seems to get a hold of Mason as well and he reacts on his part with a wider and way more believable grin than earlier.

Considering how this band has only released one record so far, they have an incredible amount of very catchy songs to play for us tonight and every single one of them is performed with the same energetic attitude. The soft and haunting "Graveyard Whistling" provides an early highlight while the most hard-rocking hits crowd together towards the end of the set. Compared to the fine-tuning of the recorded album that allows Mason's voice to always stand in the foreground of the band's sound, their music sounds both louder and a little wilder tonight, sometimes almost drowning him out on some of his more fragile falsetto parts. However, for a rock fan who prefers her pop rock with a little edge, it doesn't hurt at all to hear the guitars dominate a little in the otherwise very controlled songs, especially not when Mason with no problem can shine through as convincingly as he does the rest of the time tonight. It seems up is the only way for this band and they're sure to come back and play bigger venues in Europe as well. For myself at least, this is not the last time I show up at a show of theirs.

8

Setlist:

  • 1. Excuse Me
  • 2. Itch
  • 3. Hostage
  • 4. Honey Whiskey
  • 5. Graveyard Whistling
  • 6. Drawing Pins
  • 7. Last Orders
  • 8. Painkiller
  • 9. Trip Switch
  • 10. Wake Up Call

- Encore

  • 11. If I Get High
  • 12. Hanging
  • 13. Ban All The Music

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