Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Nero, Manchester Academy 1, 16/03

This review can be found at The Yorker, here.

As someone who's always gets on edge when surrounded by strangers in a small space, going to a dubstep concert with a moshpit seemed like a ridiculous step up from the awful clubs I've been too, but approaching the Manchester Academy with Alex Jackson as my guide and fellow explorer, we delved into the murky depths of the Nero concert.

The first odd thing of note was the age of those present. The concert was available to 14 year olds and up, and the turnout reflected that. I felt... old. But at the very least it meant I could get a good view of the stage at all times. The stage itself has a large monolith made of CRT televisions, fake speakers (there were enough huge, working speakers on the set already) and an arcade cabinet. It was like a testament to 80s culture that barely anyone present would have even experienced first-hand. With the clamouring audience factored in, it smacked of more than a little DJ worship.

Once Nero came on after an opening DJ set, I began to realise that, although the environment here was 10 times more claustrophobic, sweaty and violent than any club I'd been to, I was still enjoying myself. Because, for the first time, the music was actually something I wanted to dance to. Nero decided to open with 'New Life' and 'Doomsday', and that set the tone for the entire performance.

The set consisted of mostly their 2011 album Welcome Reality, which, if you've not heard it, I would describe as a nice lead-in to Dubstep if you're wary of the genre, but already listen to the likes of Justice or Danger. For the tracks with full lyrics ('My Eyes', 'Me and You', 'Promises'), their vocalist Alana Watson was called to the stage, taking the spotlight, while Daniel Stephens and Joseph Ray generally hid behind their equipment.

While there were some remixes worked in there (a dark and heavy version of 'Crush on You' being the most impressive), they were very subtle, you'd have to be very familiar with the album to pick up the variations. As someone who likes a bit of turntableism, I was hoping for some scratching and beat-juggling, and was a bit disappointed when that didn't happen, though that may be an unrealistic hope.

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