The Arcadian Kicks + New Killer Shoes + Idle Playthings @ O2 Academy 3, Birmingham – 3rd February 2012

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Review and Photos by Paul Broome

Time for another Silent Filter promotions gig at the O2 Academy 3, this time rising local heroes The Arcadian Kicks are back in the Midlands to headline the night with their unique blend of rock, pop, glamour and sonic freak-outs. Just what we need to warm us up on the coldest night of the year so far.

First up are Idle Playthings, another local band (from Nuneaton) who are starting to make a few waves in the live scene. I was quite taken with some of their songs – interesting time signature changes, effortless and lithe guitar licks, excellent bass work, some gut-pounding drums and crunchy synth sounds. Their sound is quite a difficult one to categorise – anthemic choruses lead into more ambient passages, jazz influences in some of the rhythm section – but they certainly know how to play.

Bassist/Vocalist Dan also has a really captivating voice, tuneful but full of character – indeed, his voice is so good, my one criticism would be that the band should use it more often rather than spreading the lead vocal responsibilites around the members. Definitely a unique band, and one to watch.

We make no secret of our love of all things New Killer Shoes here at Midlands Rocks. Over the last year they’ve dazzled and entertained us with their idiosyncratic brand of ska-tinged grit pop – and, as we predicted, the word is definitely starting to spread. There’s a real buzz of anticipation in the Academy 3 as they take to the stage, and once again they give us a masterclass in stage craft and balls-to-the-wall rocking out. Some of their songs are starting to get that sheen to them that marks them out as future classics – forthcoming single ‘Leave Me Alone’, and ‘Throwin’ Shapes’ being prime examples. Great bands are not only a solid cohesive unit, they are also individuals with discernable character traits, and that’s what marks New Killer Shoes out from a lot of their peers.

The next time they’re playing one of these Silent Filter gigs (in April), they’ll be headlining – and that’s all the indication you need as to their trajectory. If you haven’t seen these guys perform live yet, then get on board the crazy train – it’s a thrill-packed ride.

Speaking of upward trajectories, The Arcadian Kicks are a name that has been on a lot of industry lips recently. They’ve been rubbing shoulders with the great and the good, working in the studio with the legend that is Mike Chapman, and building a reputation around the country through their tireless touring and epic performances. And the buzz is certainly deserved, there’s more than a little star quality on display tonight. Vocalist Rebecca prowls the stage with confidence and sassiness, while guitarist Thomas whirls around stage right with all the energy and coordination of a monkey on angel dust, Rebekah and Tommy (on keyboards and bass) balance things out with their quiet and brooding cool, while drummer Harry just pounds away like a man possessed. Their sound is a great combination of new wave and rock, with just the right amount of goth and shoegaze sprinkled over it.

Rebecca’s vocals certainly have that Debbie Harry sultriness and power, but there’s also a little Siouxsie Sioux in there, and even tinges of Patti Smith at times. They use light and shade variations in their songs to great effect, although I think they’re at their best when the bombastic sections of the songs kick-in. This is most evident in the last track ‘I Wanna Take You Home’ which rises and rises on the back of a great chorus, before exploding in a wall of feedback and incessant rhythm – evoking My Bloody Valentine at their most pop-savvy. The Arcadian Kicks are a great band who I’m sure (and hope) we’re going to see a lot of this year.

One final note, because the bloke at the back never gets the credit (or the lighting) he deserves, can I just say: three bands, and three of the best drummers on stage in one evening I’ve seen in a long while. Superb.

View more shots from the gig in the Flickr slideshow below: