North Eastern Scotland meets North Eastern England tonight as Wick residents Neon Waltz bring their blend of guitar euphoric pop to the Northumbria Student Union, or the Northumbria Institute, or whatever the venue is being called this week.
Led by early 90’s Tim Burgess lookalike Jordan Shearer, Neon Waltz turn up at the tail end of their UK tour, which has seen them sell out almost every venue, apart from this one which looks to have sold disappointingly, on a tour which has cemented their legacy as ‘ones to watch’. Living up to this pressure what we get tonight is a band on fine form, if not a little distant, as they parade us through a collection of songs which somehow manage to blend the far out Californian pop of The Thrills, the electric guitar mash-up of Primal Scream and the swagger of recent favourites The Shimmer Band.
Visually focused on a look clearly favouring denim, the Waltz’s live show tonight hooks on brothers Kevin and Jamie Swanson, who’s guitar work and general swagger provide the band’s external display of confidence. Managing the difficulties of being driven, but not wanting to seem too keen, Neon Waltz perform with a collection of impassioned playing and nonchalant body language leaving a statement which says ‘we’re on the up, and we know it’. In this sense they play the part of traditional, ‘almost too cool for school’, indie band to a tee in a move which slightly takes away from the swagger of their music.
Playing wise tonight’s standout moments, and most impressive tracks, ‘Dreamers’ and ‘Friends who lost control’ summarise a collection of songs driven by electric guitar but augmented by deep bass grooves and electric textures. Short, to the point, and laddered with pop melodies, the Waltz’s set displays a band with fine, experimental, pop songs who keep things to under four minutes, and who shine when they look for the dance floor rather than the bedroom.
Closer ‘Perfect Frame’ proves this point with a track supported by heavy strobes and heavy bass lines in a move which has the audience bouncing and smiling.
What Neon Waltz prove tonight is that they have the attitude, the look, and most importantly the songs, to be one of the those bands who should be making a difference to the pop charts. Perhaps what they need next is a little more swagger and bombast to make the world notice them more. We need bands like Neon Waltz; they remind us that there’s still life left in the experimental-indie-rock cannon if you look hard enough.