The Noisettes
@ Sheffield Arena

Well, you know how it is at arena gigs…. Weird queues, multiple doors, half full in the arena as people load up on hot dogs, coffee, popcorn and coke. Never as ‘rawkanroll’ feeling for me as some dingy cellar. The keen contingent for the main band – Muse – are amusing themselves with a collection of ballons. Roars go up as they are kicked into touch. Any support band is going to have their work cut out when the audience are not regular gig-goers, saving themselves for these mega-gigs. The single ‘Scratch Your Name’ from earlier this year leads me to hold out hope for them.

And onstage they trot, working round Muse’s gadgetry and the mini railway for camera gear. Shingai makes an immediate impression – a black woman in a teeny green dress and gold leggings has a big strong voice. With her Sarf Landan accent, she sounds a little like Skin from Skunk Anansie. Jamie on drums stands out too, with his mad hair an beard and drumming all over the place. By the end of the set he is playing in unusual time signatures and building complex patterns. Sometimes we get two guitars, sometimes one, depending on whether Shingai is waving hers around, straddling it, or playing it. Dan, on guitar, is your archetypal rocker – red leather, long hair, low-slung jeans and a studded belt. He throws himself about and tries to cover for a lack of bass guitar. The venue have gone for a toppy sound and I want something to counterbalance the trebly rhythm guitar. They play an art-punk kind of thrash mixed up with a range of paces.

Shingai is talkative…. “This is for the chicks in the audience – there’s only like 20 percent or 15 percent so this song is for you”. I look for a calculator but she seems to have done the maths in her head. She chats about the songs like we know them. Perhaps we will, one day. She empasises songs by performing on her back, on her knees, straddling the monitor, while Dan wheels about his side of the stage. She works her voice hard and needs to gargle every few minutes. Half an hour into the set they raises applause for a particularly loud blues and follows it with the next single ‘Don’t Give Up’, which becomes a blues dance strut. They throw in double guitar solos and Shingai screeches, as she and Dan pose, dropping to the floor, legs akimbo.

“Thanks Sheffield, you’ve been cool actually, we’ll be back in January. We are The Noisettes”. Cue more applause. They were good, not gripping – and that’s not bad going at all when you are playing to someone else’s audience in a cattle shed.

Ross McGibbon