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The Nics Live @ The Baseline – 26th September 2014

You might remember that I reviewed a band called Bare John a few weeks ago live in Birmingham at what was effectively a showcase for loads of unsigned acts. On that night there were three bands that impressed me and they were Bare John, The Bad Flowers and these guys The Nics.

The Walsall based trio of Mac Smith (Vocals, bass) Adam Vickers (Guitar, vocals) and Rob Skitt (Drums, vocals) made a big impression that night, not only on me but on plenty of others as well.

It’s always interesting after seeing a band in a big venue in front of a big crowd drop down the scale a bit because in many ways you now get to see what they’re really like. The band may have delivered a great performance on the big night but are the same levels of application and energy going to be there in front of 50 people? Let’s be honest plenty of bands have ‘phoned one in’ when they think the pressure is off. Thankfully that wasn’t even close to being the case here. In fact it was never in doubt; I caught the end of the sound check… that was all I needed to hear.

The opening track ‘Woman’ showed what this band is all about. Let’s put it this way, I don’t think they will ever come to close to recording anything resembling an acoustic ballad. The rhythm section will crush everything that stands before it along with monstrously imposing guitar riffs and towering solos. You can hear some Black Sabbath in there which is no bad thing, and any members of the audience which weren’t paying attention before sure were now.

‘Stone Cold Killer’ features a long atmospheric intro which does nothing except lead you into a false sense of security because the mega riffs and cymbal crashes soon return to deafen you once more. From a personal point of view not only was it nice to see a bassist as a front man which doesn’t happen all that often but Smith is also pretty animated on stage and really plays the damn bass! I am fed up of watching bassists standing in the corner just strumming a load of nothingness so watching someone go for it blasting out riffs and rhythms left right and centre was fantastic to see.

As if to emphasise the amount of energy that had been emanating from the stage drummer Skitt removes his shirt before flying into ‘Rocky Road.’ The track itself was more of the same with the band looking really relaxed and like they were thoroughly enjoying their nights work. Being the opening band people were still coming into the room as the performance was going on but the band should take massive confidence from the fact that the cheers which flowed at the end of every track got bigger with every passing song. ‘Spinechiller’ has got a real epic feel about it and even features a blues-ish opening but it was my least favourite song of the set. There was nothing wrong with the bands performance I just didn’t really click with the track, it felt a bit forced. It was decent enough but it didn’t hit the heights of the bands other material.

One of the things that I took away from the performance was just how much The Nics love a big epic intro, on ‘When Hearts Get Broken’ it’s heavy and stop/start, jolting and jarring before the main body of the track takes over, although the track hits hard enough it isn’t quite as ‘metal’ as most of the stuff that went before, it’s more of a straight rock track and this more measured moment fits well into the set. Having talked about the intros two seconds ago I now have to tell you that the following track ‘Day In, Day Out’ just throws you straight in. You can tell that these guys gig a lot because the performance of each track is really tight, everything was totally on point, that’s good to see. Again, the solo from Vickers was fantastic. He just looks like he was born to be a guitarist; he couldn’t possibly be anything else. If you walked passed him in Tesco carrying a box of cornflakes you just know that he plays guitar in a rock band. The couple of false endings give things a little extra dimension and it’s a good way to finish the track.

‘Unbreakable’ was the only track that I had heard a recording of before so it was great to hear that it translated to the live arena the way that it did. The guitar solo soars, the bass hums and the sound of the drums crash against the walls as wave after wave of heavy rock battered those in attendance. Final track ‘Addiction’ saw the band leave the stage exactly how they came in. Making a serious fucking noise! Ferocious drum rolls and more head banging riffs were the order of the day as the band ensured that they did anything but fade quietly into the Black Country night.

It may have been on a much smaller scale but this performance was every bit as impressive as the one that they turned in in Birmingham a few weeks ago. You could argue that the links between songs could be slicker but the random, laid back style that the band exhibit is part of what makes them what they are. The only thing that the band are missing is the track with that real signature riff and/or hook, if they can manage to craft one of those then radio play and lots of it beckons because these are three very talented guys, well worth the entrance fee, and then some.

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