As pretty and rich in historical heritage as it may be, Lincoln isn’t exactly a hotspot for live music – most artists would rather stop in Nottingham, or maybe Sheffield, which can boast a bigger audience and iconic venues, and they’d probably have to get lost on the way to end up in Lincolnshire.
Occasionally, though, miracles happen. For some reason, NME decided that this year’s VO5 NME Awards Tour featuring Blossoms, one of the most promising new British acts around, should stop in Lincoln.
On 20 March, a crowd of young and hip-looking people queued outside the sold-out Engine Shed, a mid-sized multi-purpose venue conveniently located on the university campus. Some of them are accompanied by their parents, who don’t look half as happy as their teenage kids about waiting in the cold for the doors to open.
Apart from an overwhelming smell of chips lingering until enough people have bought beer to drive it away, the Engine Shed is a nice venue for concerts. The simple, straightforward industrial room with its high ceiling suits gigs perfectly, and stage-size and space are decent, allowing for a crowd of 1800 people. Sadly, though, the floor is super sticky even before anyone had the chance to spill beer or vodka bull – so sticky it is hard to move in some places, actually, which is annoying.
At 7.30pm, Rory Wynne, a pale blonde kid with a slightly Gallagher-esque arrogance and self-confidence kicks off the night with his catchy indie rock tunes, singing modest lines like “You’re the second-best thing in the universe after me” and throwing plastic cups into the audience. He is a talented guy, and he’s aware of that – maybe a bit too much.
The second support act is the equally self-confident Manchester-based punk band Cabbage, who deliver a very raw performance (including screaming, psychedelic dancing and spitting water into the audience) in line with loud guitars and angry lyrics about the NHS, Brexit and other political topics.
After a short break, Blossoms enter the stage to a Kanye West song. With their long hair, tightly-fitted clothes and the occasional moustache, the five-piece from Stockport look very 70s glam rock. Singer Tom Ogden (born in 1993) looks extremely young, but he doesn’t act like it. He and his bandmates own the stage with an ease that is slightly surprising for a band who only released their debut album about a year ago.
They are talented musicians, and Ogden’s voice is easily recognisable, working well both live and on record. The music is a mix of indie, 80s synth-pop and 70s glam rock, at times too polished and tame, but sometimes quite edgy and daring – the live sound is definitely rockier than the album version.
About 90 per cent of the crowd seem to know the words of every single song, and to be fair, Blossoms are perfect for huge singalongs. Towards the end, one of their songs morphs into a medley of the Oasis classic Half the World Away and Wham!’s Last Christmas. Yes, Last Christmas, in March. And everyone sings along.
The set closes with their hit single Charlemagne, a nice indie anthem made for stadiums, leaving behind happy faces everywhere. It was a good gig – let’s hope Lincoln will see more of that kind soon.