There are times you catch a band early into their ascendancy and realise that you are only witnessing the beginning of a rise to the very top.
That is how you would have felt catching Nothing But Thieves at the UEA in Norwich on Wednesday, with the band playing to a packed out LCR to terrific acclaim, having rescheduled the gig to accommodate a supporting slot with Muse at the O2 earlier this month.
Having made the crowd wait and extra couple of weeks to witness their meteoric rise from playing “the small room above the Waterfront six months ago,” to headline act in East Anglia’s premier spot, they did not disappoint, with front man Conor Mason’s superb vocal range filling the room with consummate ease.
Third on the bill, they were ably supported by South-Western act Black Foxxes who opened up the show very impressively with a style seemingly bouncing around somewhere between Dashboard Confessional and Twin Atlantic that got the crowd whipped up for the remainder of the evening.
Sandwiched in between were Sundara Karma, ahead of a summer that sees them open up the main stage at Reading & Leeds, a band with plenty of hype and all the confidence to go with that, as each member of the band appeared tailored to steal the attention in differing ways, with Oscar Lulu clad in a leather jacket sensually gyrating in front of the audience, flanked by guitarists Ally Baty and Dom Cordell wearing a long detectives’ jacket and Hawaiian shirt respectively.
Sundara Karma have been tipped for a big year in many quarters, but this appears to be because they are producing the same bland pop rock that filters through Radio One every summer, enjoying one successful album with their cocky demeanour before disappearing from public consciousness altogether within a couple of years.
The main event begins in bizarre fashion, with the LCR lights going off and stage lights coming on seemingly signalling the start of the set, only for the filler playlist to kick back into life with Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’, delaying the entrance of the Southend rockers.
When the five-piece band do arrive on stage, Mason takes up a position he will begin many tracks in, facing directly in front of drummer James Price as their seminal hit ‘Itch’ begins, evidence to any potential doubters within the audience that Mason is more than capable of matching the sounds from their self-titled debut album that has captured the nations.
Fan favourite ‘Painkillers’ follows up next to maintain early momentum, but it is hardly needed with a crowd prepped and ready to get involved in the action, taking advantage of any opportunity handed to them by Mason to sing along with the lyrics.
With little material to work with as yet, the band continue to pluck tracks from the deluxe version of their debut album, with ‘Hanging’ and ‘Honey Whiskey’ catching a few members of the audience out, either side of album opener ‘Excuse Me’.
A cover always seemed likely from a band with just the one album to work with, and Nothing But Thieves do not disappoint, with a brief introduction to their influences quickly followed up by a version of Pixies’ mega-hit, ‘Where Is My Mind?’, before the first set ends with the phenomenal ‘Wake Up Call’, a version that feels slightly ramped up from the album version for the live event.
The band are quickly back on stage as the youthful Mason bounds back on, only to croon into latest single ‘If I Get High’ to open up the encore, before ‘Trip Switch’ and ‘Ban All The Music’ close out the night and cap a roaring success for a band who still seem surprised to have already accrued such a raucous following.
There is so much to like about Nothing But Thieves, not yet tainted by the world of fame and still astounded by the level of support they have managed to drum up in such a short period of time.
In contrast to the support coming from Sundara Karma, they do not peacock around on stage, simply – not unlike Muse – relying on their musical prowess to get them through the show, as opposed to bright colours, trademarked pieces of apparel or any other tricks of the trade that cover up any flaws.
A wait now is upon us awaiting the difficult second album, something that has hindered the progress of many a band before them. Overcome that obstacle and we can be assured that all at Norwich on Wednesday witnessed the beginning of the next biggest thing in British rock.
After a performance like that, one can only hope closing track ‘Ban All The Music’ is not something that comes to pass. We’ll all end up missing out on something special.