LIVE: The Xcerts / Airways @ O2 Academy, Leicester

By Amy Albinson

Whilst it feels like The Xcerts were only just off tour with Nothing But Thieves and finishing their smaller instore tour at the beginning of the year, the Scottish trio are already back on the road in support of their new album ‘Hold On To Your Heart’ and bring Peterborough-based darlings Airways along for the ride.

The tour kicks off in the Scholar of Leicester’s O2 Academy as Airways take to the stage with the heavily drum-led opener of their debut EP. The crowd may be small but the energy they bring is undoubtedly infectious with feet beginning to tap as the band launch into ‘Aliens’ amid a hue of green lights. Reminiscent of a younger Arctic Monkeys and noticeably influenced by Leicester-rockers Kasabian, the band clearly have many fans amidst the audience as their storytelling lyrics are yelled back at them. Vocalist Jake Daniels carries the crowd through tales of hazy, late nights out, his straight-talking vocal style arguably key in what has given this band such success from just a couple of singles. They finish on their latest ‘Mate’ to cheers and a repetitive chant of “Airways! Airways!” from the eager audience. Not bad for the first night of tour.

After a short break the crowd conversation drops to a hush of anticipation as the stage once again lights up in a golden smokey haze. The Xcerts walk on confidently with a nod to the audience as front man Murray reaches for the microphone: “Hey Leicester, how you doing? We’re a band called The Xcerts”.

The show is intimate, opening with the gentle build up of soft piano keys bringing in their new album’s opening track ‘The Dark’ as the crowd begins to move, joining in with cries of “tell me when the worst is over” with fizzling excitement. The lights go down and then there’s an expectant cheer as the first few chords of fan-favourite ‘Shaking in the Water’ blasts out. The crowd can’t help but dance, and as hands fly into the air alongside shouts of “well I was shake, shake, shaking in the water” it becomes easy to forget it’s a rainy Sunday evening in Leicester.

It’s clear they’re glad to be back having not played the city since Leicester’s Handmade Festival in 2016. Whilst their previous set may have been a catastrophe (in Murray’s own words), after tonight’s performance it’s clear they’ve been forgiven. The set is a perfect mix of older, well-loved tunes, and the new album, whose release made the top 40.

The Xcerts move back to their newer material as the band bring Toby from the audience onto the stage to sing the saxophone part of ‘Drive Me Wild’. It’s clear the crowd are enjoying themselves as they laugh and cheer, while he does his best impression of a sax and the rest of the band follow his lead, the drum and bass flying in to accompany. The lights flash to purple as he climbs back down to a crowd-gone-wild.

As their set ends the crowd begins to chant. It might be a Sunday but it’s barely past half 9 and no one is going to leave without an encore. Murray returns to the stage alone, pauses a moment and breaks gently into ‘Aberdeen 1987’. The crowd falls to a diminished quiet as Murray’s crooning vocals fill the small room. The spell is only broken when the rest of the band rejoin him on stage to end the night on ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’ to loud cheers and stamping feet under a backlit blue wash accompanied by strobes silhouetting their faces.

If this is what the first night of their tour is like, we envy anyone seeing The Xcerts in the following few weeks, as they continue to prove themselves to be one of the UK’s most exciting young bands.