2016 has seen Nothing But Thieves tour almost solidly in support of their self-titled debut album, which was released in November last year. Their shows have included a support slot with Muse, an early 2016 UK/European tour, a slot at Glastonbury, a late 2016 European tour AND more shows in America and Canada, playing more in twelve months than many bands get to play in their whole career. To round off a crazy twelve months, the quintet played three of their biggest headline shows to date – all of which sold out in advance – ending with a performance at Brixton’s O2 Academy. These guys are riding a huge wave of success and after tonight’s performance it’s thoroughly deserved.
Sadly, due to unexpected issues on arrival at Brixton, we were unable to catch Airways set, which meant that Vant became the opening band of the night for us; and we couldn’t have asked for anything better. Opening with The Answer, their lovable indie rock sees heads bopping along and groups of fans within the crowd singing back word for word. If you haven’t come across Vant this year, where have you been? Peace & Love proves why they’re one of the hottest bands on the scene right now: the political track sums up the venue’s vibe. It might be extremely chilled out and peaceful, but there’s a lot of love for Vant in the room. Organisations such as Girls Against have helped bring to light how common, and frequent, inappropriate touching at live shows has become, so Vant take the opportunity to remind everyone “don’t be a dick” – fortunately, something that the crowd remembers. It’s clear during closer Do You Know Me? that Vant want the crowd to kick up a fuss as they run across the stage throwing guitar solos left, right and centre; but sadly nobody takes the hint.
As the lights dim on a sold out Brixton Academy we’re ready to witness Nothing But Thieves play their biggest headline show to date. Opening with Itch it’s instantly clear that this isn’t any old Nothing But Thieves show, as the stage is illuminated with a circle of light and well-placed fairy lights. On recordings, NBT’s focus lies within Conor Mason’s vocals, but in a venue this big they need to deliver something special; this they most certainly do. Sultry Hostage highlights the showmanship between the quintet alongside the lyrical maturity that they possess. Crowd participation remained a significant part of the night, the room singing back word for word when commanded by Mason, the members’ faces lighting up upon realisation that they have the whole crowd completely captivated.
Tonight’s setlist featured the bonus tracks featured on the band’s debut, self-titled album – Hanging, Honey Whiskey and Six Billion. This can be a risky move, but fortunately this isn’t the case tonight and the crowd momentum doesn’t dip. Honey Whiskey, known for its sincere and relaxed, yet feisty tempo, was beefed up to a new height with Joe Langridge-Brown, Dom Craik and Phil Blake revving their guitars into action, paired with James Prices’ pounding drum line. It’s a team effort and one which sees the crowd bopping along, a little unsure of how to show their appreciation.
We were also treated to two new tracks this evening, Get Better and Design, which keep in line with the NBT sound; we also love the added twist of mystery in Design. Performing both with complete confidence it was hard to distinguish between these brand new tracks and those that the band have played regularly. All flaunt the obligatory big chorus, crowd participation and sing-along elements (you’ll be singing along to Get Better on first listen!)
The simplistic yet striking backdrop deserves a notable mention, the fairy lights creating a sense of intimacy and their circle of light logo glowing in various patterns, which work in time with the music. The band somehow take this to an arena-style level; the simplest things in life can sometimes be the most powerful.
You can’t deny that Nothing But Thieves have some killer tracks, Wake Up Call and If I Get High being two of them. Wake Up Call with its undeniably catchy backline showcases the rowdiest onstage action, the band throwing every ounce of their energy into the track. Mason possesses the ideal frontman persona, prowling the stage like a lion until the crowd provide him with enough attention, screams erupting wherever he moves. His confidence oozes, filtering into the minds of his fellow bandmates and making this one of the strongest NBT performances we’ve seen to date. If I Get High takes you on a journey of reflection thanks to the heart breaking and sincere lyrics. There’s something truly magical about this track when the band perform it live, leaving us stunned and a little speechless after such an angelic experience.
Marking the biggest headline show of the band’s career, they make numerous comments about their journey to the huge, iconic stage, from flyering outside the venue two years ago to headlining it tonight. You can’t help but feel a part of something truly special, as the triple threat of Lover, Please Stay, Trip Switch and Ban All The Music rounds off what has been a phenomenal set. Mason’s vocals glisten and become the focus point during Lover, Please Stay as we drift away to a distant land and shivers are sent down our spine. The band up their game with Trip Switch and Ban All The Music, the arena-worthy guitars filling the room in the final moments, the band giving every ounce of their remaining energy. Received by a roaring applause, the world would be a very dull place without Nothing But Thieves. Smiles glide across the band members’ faces as they return to take in the final moments of the electric atmosphere, something that many will never forget.
Nothing But Thieves have, in just over a year, made the leap from a sold out Electric Ballroom to a sold out Brixton Academy, which is all the more impressive considering that they have been away from the UK and haven’t released any new music. This achievement is no mean feat, but hard work, determination and the catchiest of songs proves that any dream can become a reality. So Wembley Arena then next year guys?
Written by: Nicola Craig
Photos by: Sadie Sauls