XFM's Winter Wonderland, Brixton Academy, London

Consummate Chiefs add a dash of winter cheer
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The Independent Culture

When Xfm first launched in 1997 it promised to be a raucous, risk-taking station dedicated to promoting cutting-edge new music, as an alternative to the didactic Radio 1. Fast forward 11 years and the station is part of GCap's radio empire, credible presenters are scant and they have a band as safe and commercial as the Kaiser Chiefs headlining their annual "Winter Wonderland" event.

It wasn't clear exactly what made the evening a "Winter Wonderland": a couple of girls wearing Santa hats was about the only allusion to the moniker. Without pomp (or fake snow), the always wonderful White Lies took to the stage. They played a number of hits from their much anticipated debut album, To Lose My Life including "Death" and "Unfinished Business" but suffered from their early time slot, and never quite took off. They will be terrifyingly promoted as the hot new band of 2009 and there's no doubt they will be headlining events of this size soon enough.

Unfortunately Ladyhawke failed to really live up to the standard we've come to expect from her. With such an accomplished debut album, a melodic electro indie-rock love letter to the Eighties, it's a shame to see her so lacklustre on stage. The shyness that crippled her adolescence is no doubt the reason behind this miserable Stevie Nicks persona, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing. Still, "Paris is Burning" and "My Delirium" were well received, but the calibre of these songs demands more effort from the Kiwi songstress.

From the painfully insecure to the over-confident, Ida Maria was next up. The Norwegian pop-punk singer picked up the crowd with anthems such as "Oh My God" and "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked" but her self-conscious recklessness and excessive feral screams soon grated, and everyone seemed rather relieved when her set finished (once she'd stopped crawling around the floor, of course).

Seeing how Iglu and Hartley's one hit to date, "In This City", is very much associated with our brief summer, it seems strange for them to be playing at a "Winter Wonderland". They certainly brought LA to Brixton though, jumping around the stage in their vests, showcasing their rock-rap's catchy choruses. It only took two songs before front man Jarvis Anderson's top was off. If you were hoping this naff band was going to be left behind in 2008 along with Republican rule, it seems, unfortunately, unlikely to happen.

The Rifles were touted a couple of years ago as the next indie heirs to the throne but have never had much chart success and thus seem an absurd choice to play so high up tonight's bill. Worryingly, their cookie-cutter indie tunes including "The Great Escape" and "Peace and Quiet" went down quite well with the crowd. Finishing with "Sleigh Ride" was a nice little touch but not enough to prevent the band from being desperately unexciting.

Finally, to the over-the-top opening of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing", headliners, Kaiser Chiefs, amusingly arrived on stage. They were the most experienced band of the night, and it showed. Their sound was polished, their production just the right side of dramatic and their front man, Ricky Wilson, effortlessly roused the crowd with his well-worn, rehearsed hyperactive performance.

They unadventurously stuck to the big hits from all three albums, including "I Predict a Riot", "Everyday I Love You Less and Less", "Ruby" and their latest single, "Never Miss a Beat" – all of which were met with wild sing-alongs and a blatant disregard for all the signs asking people to refrain from crowd-surfing.

All in all it was a pretty mixed evening. Some exciting new acts failed to really impress; the inclusion of some bands was mystifying, and, in the end, a populist, middle-of-the-road indie-rock band was the highlight. Xfm stated that the evening was about "bringing together the stars of tomorrow and today's hottest bands". Are we to believe that "Winter Wonderland" really is a snapshot of musical tastes in Britain as we approach the end of 2008? The winter of our discontent, indeed.

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