Southend five-piece Nothing But Thieves brought their long-awaited Moral Panic tour to the Motorpoint on a crisp autumn night: my first post-lockdown gig, as I imagine it was for many others, with a communal feeling of “it’s good to be back” in the air.
Getting unassumingly straight to work with electric hit Futureproof and Real Love Song, the latter in particular a showcase for NBT’s ferocious talent along with Conor Mason’s haunting, almost operatic vocals, the group forgo big screens for this one. A risky choice I’ve seen made by a few bands in this venue, but on this occasion it works: their lighting design, setlist and sheer talent carries the band well in this vast space. However, if we are to talk about visuals we must talk about sound, something the Motorpoint has struggled with for years now; even to an amateur’s ear there are obvious issues with acoustics in this venue.
Formed in 2012, this reviewer has followed Nothing But Thieves since their infancy (and took a five-hour drive to be here): there’s no doubt they’ve conquered the festival scene but arenas, which this tour sees them play for the first time, are a different matter. Early on, I’m still on the fence as to whether they will own this or get lost in the space. Still, Just Like A Kid and Trip Switch go down well before Soda and Sorry give this part of the set a rounded finish.
A bright orange hue signals a change in mood: the band leave the stage, guitarist Joe Langridge-Brown and bassist Philip Blake returning first before lockdown-era hit Everybody’s Going Crazy. The vibe in the arena kicks up a notch at this point, remaining in place for punchy, shouty anthem What Did You Think When You Made Me This Way.
Mason’s recollections of one of NBT’s first Cardiff shows – in Clwb Ifor Bach to “about three people and a cat”; as someone also at said gig, in 2015, it was in reality sweaty and jampacked – precede a mellowing of mood. A green spotlight centres on the frontman for the sultry intro to Phobia, though when the bridge kicks in moshpits return in earnest. Particles, a massed arm-swayer, and Amsterdam get everyone in the balcony onto their feet; Satisfied leads us into the spine-tingling set finale Impossible.
Nothing But Thieves were by no means lost in the space, then, even if Mason’s angelic goosebump-inducing falsetto is best heard acoustic in a smaller venue – but what we lose there, we regain in the display of talent from the rest of this band. Talent which definitely shines better and rocks harder in a venue of this size.
Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Thurs 7 Oct
words DENIECE CUSACK photos ANTHONY CONWAY
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