Can Nothing But Thieves Get Under Your Skin?

Photo by Ryan Johnson
Photo by Ryan Johnson

Nothing But Thieves made their inaugural foray onto Canadian soil headlining a sold out Imperial Vancouver on Main Street.

Playing to a young and egregiously well behaved crowd, Nothing But Thieves put in a relatively short set for what turned out to be a considerably long wait between the English five piece and their Los Angeles based openers The Wrecks. The scuttlebutt murmuring around the sold-out sound check suggested that an inadequate job of time-management regarding the Washington State – British Columbia border crossing was to blame for the late start to the gig. A simple glance at the Nothing But Thieves’ Twitter account would back that allegation up, only the band would have you believe that it was the Canadian border responsible for their late arrival as opposed to the individual in-house responsible for scheduling. Lacking the foresight required when taking a band and technicians from a country they do not inhabit to another country they do not live in was not the only concern with the Nothing But Thieves crew, the guitar techs responsible for setting up the band’s gear were also singled out in front of a packed Imperial Vancouver by continuing to patch a cable into an active tube amp with the gain up.

Once on the stage the UK modern rock outfit were as pleasant in demeanour as the appreciative crowd in front of them. The modern rock act quickly answered the question “why is the one guitar player using a rectifier?”  By storming out with a hyped up version of “Itch”, the fourth track off of their self-titled debut album.  

Having interrupted their Under My Skin tour to open for the European leg of Muse’s 16 date Drones tour, the maturity that Muse must have seen in Nothing But Thieves’ music is abundantly apparent both recorded and live. Citing Led Zeppelin, Ray Charles, Arcade Fire, and the The Foo Fighters as inspiration, Nothing But Thieves very much felt like a handsome man growing into a magnificent suit. It’s all going to come together soon.

Nothing But Thieves is clearly on the precipice of something, what that something is remains to be seen or heard. Displaying a delightful mix of classically trained musical knowledge (guitarist Dominic Craik) with self-taught passion ( guitarist /keyboardist Joe Langridge-Brown) it is easy see their collective love of Jeff Buckley as a sort of musical cohesive binding for the natives of Essex, England. Recorded, the maturity of the young ensemble of schoolhood friends is mature beyond their years, live however Nothing But Thieves often come across as a 90’s throwback band. Using this reference carefully the band can at times have a Bush (Or Bush X in Canada) feel to them live, something I would have never extracted from their recordings. It is not to say that they mirrored the group from London England (that was next to ignored in their own country but saw a couple years of bonafide fame in North America), though at times they did display a certain contrived grunge sound. Never more so did they teeter that contrived sound than in their cover of the Pixies hit “Where Is My Mind”, doing nothing to add to or stamp their own angle on the classic.

Don’t get it confused; Nothing But Thieves are well on their way to eventual stardom, especially if they manage to stay on the trajectory that they are on. During the fifth song of the evening “Graveyard Whistling”, the band’s haunting melodies and romantic vocals were enough to make the hair on one’s skin stand on end, if it were not for vocalist Conor Mason’s pitchy delivery of the higher notes in the line “if you don’t believe, it can’t hurt you”.

Perhaps that is a microcosm for the band who are full of talent, grace, gratitude and passion, really only lacking in “reps” or the time it takes to get there at this moment. If you are already a fan of the group who would have strongly benefited from an all-ages venue Wednesday night, I would suggest that you catch them live now as you will be in the unique position to watch a caterpillar of band on the precipice of becoming a butterfly.

Nothing But Thieves Set-list

Itch

Painkiller

Hostage

Hanging

Graveyard Whistling

Excuse Me

Where Is My Mind

Drawing Pins

If I Get High

Wake Up Call

Trip Switch

Ban All The Music