Here we go.
Here we go.
Here we go.
It’s five minutes before nine on a wet and windy Wednesday night on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. Inside the O2 Academy something is stirring. There is a buzz of energy, a hum of anticipation, an awed reverence for that which is to come. Only one band can inspire such a dizzy cocktail, so ladies and gentleman (and people from Wishaw) please welcome to the stage…
According to Mark Morriss, The Bluetones were the frilly shirts amongst the Fred Perry of Britpop…something more delicate, more careful, more fragile than the bombast, bomb blasts and bluster of the likes of Oasis. It is true that they are capable of writing music that tenderly tugs at the heart strings and that can reduce the toughest of souls to tears but as a live experience they are a riot of melody, a blitzkrieg of pop, a wall of sound that easily matches the turn it up to eleven rockers and rollers of the music world.
This tour is a celebration of the first ten years of the band, 1995-2005 when they released four studio albums and fourteen singles. Top ten smashes, top of the pops, top of the charts (debut album “Expecting to Fly” hit number one on its release) and, as human beans, just plain top. They are one of those bands who inspire a religious devotion from their fans…and it is a devotion that is well deserved and that is repaid with songs that really could save your life.
The evening kicks off with “Down at the Reservoir” an album track from “Return to the Last Chance Saloon” which was released in 1998. It’s the first of several songs that are aimed squarely at the anoraks…the most devoted…and yet it sounds like the only song you ever really wanted to hear, even for those in the audience who are more casual worshippers. Even on a tour that is billed as a celebration of a particular period in a bands career it is a bold choice to start with something so, relatively, obscure. The fact that the audience respond as if they have just received a PPI check that will clear their credit card debt is testament to the power of their songwriting.
Their first top twenty single, “Bluetonic”, is up next and it is greeted with the sort of roar that normally accompanies the winning goal in an F.A Cup final. The chorus is sung, flung, back at the stage from the crowd with so much gusto that there is a danger that at least one person on the stage may be knocked off of their feet. For a song that is over twenty years old it sounds as fresh and delightful as it did the day I bought it from Sleeves in Kirckaldy. What is less delightful is that everyone in the band looks as fresh as they did at that time too…I am painfully aware of my middle-age spread, male pattern baldness and all ’round “meh” factor in their presence.
I’ve already pinned my colours to the mast when it comes to which single from the Britpop era is the greatest and when it is played live here I am only convinced further that I am right. “Keep the Home Fires Burning” is the most beautiful, tender, joyous and heartbreaking song and it is also a toe tapper, a foot shuffler…a cut some rugger. I don’t need to go on about it here…there are at least a dozen other articles on the site where you can read about why I’m right about it being the greatest single of the era.
Mark Morriss manages to avoid being murdered (say it in your best Taggart voice) when he claims that some of the band went along to watch the “only team in Glasgow” the night before…then saves himself by revealing it was Partick Thistle. There is even a suggestion that Adam Devlin was to have made the half-time draw along with Kingsley the Thistle mascot! He’s a scamp that Morriss lad. A proper scamp. I reckon that’s why the ladies love him…it is at least partly why my own partner comes over all peculiar whenever his name is mentioned. All of this is a precursor to one of the singles from 2003, “Fast Boy” and one can’t help wondering quite how fast a boy Morriss would have to have been had he decided to name either half of the Old Firm as the “only team in Glasgow”.
“Marblehead Johnson” and “Cut Some Rug” are played back to back and in between Mark reminds everyone that both songs reached number seven in the charts, “…probably bought by the same people, or it’s a conspiracy…the same one that’s kept us out of the charts ever since!”. This double whammy of tunes so marvelous that they make the complete works of ***insert name of revered band here*** look mundane lifts the crowd to a height that approaches a form of mania. It’s quite the thing.
In the interests of preserving some mystery for people yet to catch the band on this tour I’m going to reveal no more from the set list and instead settle for sharing with you the notes I jotted down during the final song;
“I could be over-egging this pudding but I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen this many people this happy at a gig…ever? This is a riot of sound and melody and song and a glorious madness and…and…and…oh, just everything. Best band of their time? Hell…they could be the best ever on the evidence of this!”