Nothing But Thieves have achieved moderate success since forming – from touring with MUSE, their self-titled debut album achieving top 10 status in the UK Album Chart and sold-out headline tours across the board. Having long since escaped the days where they were writing songs in the confines of guitarist Dom Craik’s garage in Southend-On-Sea, no more so than on their current sold-out UK headline tour, that see’s them playing to thousands each night. We ventured down to Manchester’s O2 Ritz to witness the trailblazing rock five-piece in action.
Riffs, sweat, vocal led theatrics and lung-battering sing-a-long’s were on the agenda for all who walked through the doors of the Manchester venue. Upon first sight, the band are met with cheers and blistering energy from the crowd. ‘Itch’, the band’s opening statement is an ambitious song to start on, performed just right, it has the power to overturn all in its wake, but sadly falling short of what’s expected, renders it quite debilitating. And tonight’s effort falls into the latter. ‘Painkiller’ rears immediately after and doesn’t do much else to shift the underwhelming flatness of sound that emanates off the stage. What it does offer is a monster of flaying riffs, exhilarating energy and volumes of crashing cymbals, but ultimately, each element becomes indistinguishable under the cacophony of sound that barrages through the flooded P.A. The first ten minutes resoundingly act as a warm up for the next hour or so to come. Soon to find their stride after the hiccups of the earlier tracks, NBT hit their full 100% by the time they reach their third song in, ‘Hostage’.
Arguably, one of the crowning pieces in their set, ‘Hostage’ reveals a musical maturity and an expansiveness to NBT that they rarely share. Opening to a pulsing bass line and a steady beat with twangs of guitar filtering through every now and then, ‘Hostage’ remains simple in form throughout its three and a bit minute formation. Unwinding only at the presence of frontman, Conor Mason’s versatile vocals as he drifts between full voice and falsetto. Breaking his silence at the culmination of ‘Hostage’, Conor takes a minute to greet the crowd by letting them know that their enthusiasm is very much appreciated, “This is fucking crazy, thank you for coming to see us tonight.” Before they launch into a storming rendition of ‘Hanging’, shortly followed by one of their oldest and most loved tracks ‘Graveyard Whistling’, that acts as a haunting reminder of the band’s powerful songwriting prowess, with the audience also playing their part in the proceedings through providing fulsome choir-like harmonies.
A surprise cover of Pixies ‘Where Is My Mind?’ prompts a nostalgic embrace between the band and the crowd, Conor noting Pixies as “one of our influences.” As the classic echoes out across the venue, the band are cocooned in a lilac glow which soon ruptures into the first circle pit of the tour upon the reaction to NBT original ‘Drawing Pins’, Conor absolutely in awe of the crowd adds: “Fucking hell Manchester! That just proves to me how much better you are than any other city…”
The softer tones of ballad ‘Tempt You’ follow, before the instantly recognisable bass riff of ‘Wake Up Call’ kicks in and the band leave the stage for their encore. Returning to the stage, NBT break into the subtler, heartfelt gossamer of ‘If I Get High’, bodies adorn shoulders and everything slows down for a few minutes. It is moments like these that typify the variation of styles within the band, like most they don’t just rely on the propulsion of their louder, more aggressive tracks, they realise the need for light and shade.
The final two tracks ‘Trip Switch’ and ‘Ban All The Music’ provide the basis for NBT’s heavier side to re-emerge, encouraging beers to fly over the room and the crowd’s energy to peak. Conor stands front and centre before he belts out the last bars of ‘Ban All The Music’, while the rest of the band form a formidable force around the drum kit. Feeling like a successful night’s work has been achieved, Conor stands proud at the end awarding the crowd a round of applause, as they in accordance also give the band a standing ovation.
Photos: Priti Shikotra http://www.pshikotra.com/
Nothing But Thieves debut album is out now on RCA.
For more on Nothing But Thieves, visit their Website.