Perhaps it's because the title is currently resurgent under its first female editor, or maybe someone's noticed that only three of last year's top 100-selling tracks were rock songs. Either way, this debut show for 2011's NME Awards Tour offered signs that the music paper's longstanding status as a ghetto for young men with guitars might be nearing an end.
Only garage rockers The Vaccines, lowest on the bill, fitted the old formula entirely. The night's second act Everything Everything might have matched the profile (four young white males from around England), but the boiler-suited quartet's sound is a slow-burning revelation built on glistening keyboard lines and high-pitched vocal harmonies, a meeting point between sugar-rush rave-pop keyboards and Talking Heads' light-hearted sonic invention.
Magnetic Man represent a long overdue concession to the dubstep sound, although this collaboration of genre stalwarts Benga, Skream and Artwork has already proved to be a successful crossover project. It's hard to make three guys at a table full of equipment look interesting, but the music is a thrilling collision of deep bass, breakneck beats and hyperactive female vocals which would have sounded just as timeless at a Prodigy or Roni Size gig a decade ago and more.
Even in comparison to those who had gone before, Crystal Castles are a band worthy of the times and surely superstars in waiting. Clearly designed to scare and confuse most listeners over the age of 25, the Toronto outfit ride in on waves of gut-crunching electronic bass. Singer Alice Glass is a peculiar kind of icon, her flailing scarf and perfect black bob only rarely visible through the harsh, strobing light-show going on in the background, her voice processed to the point of dehumanisation through stand-out songs like "Crimewave" and "Baptism". Then the gloom clears long enough to show that she's performing on a crutch. The same set could be played in a tiny club or on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury and would look and sound just as incredible.Reuse content