26/9/15, O2 Academy Birmingham.
In recent years, there has been a proliferation of comeback gigs. Whether they be the mammoth 2012 homecoming shows of the Stone Roses, this year’s well-documented reunion tour of the Libertines, or the less-publicised revivals of 90s indie favourites, Cast and Ride, this much is certain – nostalgic trips down memory lane are most definitely in vogue.
This was clearly evidenced as the people of Birmingham packed out the O2 Academy to welcome The Bluetones to the city as part of their 20th anniversary Jukebox tour – their first in four years. And, from the first note of ‘Are You Blue or Are You Blind?’, the Britpop veterans were in imperious form, allaying any fears amongst the crowd that they may have been a little rusty after four years out in the wilderness.
The Bluetones were perhaps less celebrated than many of their heyday contemporaries, though no less talented, and as they ploughed through song after song of the highest quality, it is rather difficult to fathom their continued under-the-radar like status in the pantheon of British music greats.
Led by the charismatic Mark Morriss on vocals, who bantered regularly with those in attendance, the band looked in a relaxed mood as they treated the crowd to near-perfect renditions of hits as diverse as the excellent ‘Bluetonic’, ‘Solomon Bites The Worm’ and the mellower but no less brilliant ‘Putting Out Fires’.
Refreshingly, The Bluetones also failed to conform to convention, deciding to play their biggest hit – the number one single, ‘Slight Return’ – pre-encore, and only for the fans’ sake, play it at all.
Instead they returned to the stage to play the 2002 single ‘After Hours’ – possibly the finest song ever written about a pub lock-in, and had the venue bouncing in the process. They then launched into their penultimate number, a cheekily uplifting cover of the theme tune from Minder, ‘I Could Be So Good for You’, with Morriss in good form, asking the crowd, “Everyone knows the second verse, don’t they?”
By the time the band closed with ‘If‘, they had the crowd crying out for more as each word was sung back to them. Witnessing this, it is hard to think of a band with as much chemistry as The Bluetones and, after putting on an onstage masterclass, Morriss’s inherent showmanship being particularly impressive, it is equally hard to think of one that enjoys performing together as much.