GIG REVIEW: NOTHING BUT THIEVES (Oxford Arts Factory, Jul 2016)
BANDS: Nothing But Thieves, Strangers
VENUE: Oxford Arts Factory DATE: 21st July, 2016 Once again it’s Splendour Season, but if like me you missed the boat to the promised land I have one word for you – sideshows! And if the set that Nothing But Thieves delivered at their Oxford Arts Factory sideshow is anything to go by, the quality at this year’s Splendour in the Grass is going to be fierce. Kicking off the night are Sydney-turned-Melbourne rock outfit Strangers who manage to pack out the main floor early thanks to their Hawaiian shirt-clad frontman Ben Britton and his candid honesty about battling depression. The group’s decidedly bold rock gives way to the main event and the five-piece boys from Essex take to the stage. With all the hype in the air, it’s easy to forget that Nothing But Thieves have only one full-length album to their name – but the intoxicating combo of catchy hooks and lead singer Conor Mason’s otherworldly vocals have catapulted the band to incredible heights (including their recent stint as the UK support act for Muse’s 2016 ‘Drones’ tour). This is the first ever tour of Australia for Nothing But Thieves but the room greets them with a stadium-sized roar, and the evening is for lack of a better word – mesmerising. Mason’s voice is the kind to give the devil himself goose-bumps; his falsetto is flawless and he can switch seamlessly between glassy ballads (‘If I Get High’) to rock-mode (‘Ban All The Music’) in a heartbeat. He’s not alone though - with a super-sized serving of skill from the other band members, these boys are as technically gifted as they are charismatic. During the set they cheekily whip out a cover of The Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind’, much to the delirious delight of the crowd. But despite their ability to belt out a banger, one of the biggest highlights is incidentally their slowest song – the raw and breathless ‘Lover, Please Stay’. The crowd croons along with Mason accompanied only by a guitar, and it’s such a beautiful moment that even strangers are clutching each other’s hands in awe. By the end of the set the crowd is exploding, and the boys onstage seem genuinely surprised and buoyed by the raucous response. But it’s so hard not to like this charming and brilliant band of Brits, and judging by their elated faces leaving the stage it won’t be long until we see them on our shores again.
BY TIANA SPETER