Gig Review: Hunter and the Bear, Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, 17th Feb 2017 @HunterTheBear

Being in a band is a difficult business right now. Gone are the days of going to your local record store, putting on a pair of headphones, hearing something new that you like and buying the album straight away. Bands generally rely on social media to get the word out there, and listeners now expect to get their music for nothing. Yes, there are those of us who still buy albums – I personally like to have something tangible as well as supporting hard-working bands financially.

Of course, a vital market to get interested is teens – they are the future of music in every way and have been since the 50s when “the teenager” really started to exist. You know what I mean.

It was, therefore an absolute pleasure to go to a gig and see a gaggle of teens standing at the front, adoringly watching their favourite band’s every move and singing every syllable.

I am talking about Hunter and the Bear when they appeared at Voodoo Lounge in Stamford on Friday 17th February 2017 as a warm-up gig in the run-up to the tour for their debut album “The Paper Heart”. Of course, their audience wasn’t limited to the youth of today – there was a great mix of people who seemingly followed the guys around the country! That, for me, is the mark of a band who has something a little bit special…

Supporting was Anglo-American singer/guitarist Pembroke Tenneson. He had immediate stage presence and a smile that could melt the iciest of hearts. He proceeded into a lovely acoustic set of self-written songs and covers, largely favouring Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles – a big thumbs up from me!

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Lively, cheeky and engaging, he had the audience on his side within seconds, especially his two lady hecklers who I think had more on their mind than just the music! I will be seeing Tenneson again – he’s got a fair few gigs listed for this year already, so urge you to do the same!

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Pembroke Tenneson’s setlist:

World Keep on Turning (Fleetwood Mac)

Look Out Below

Black Books

Good to Me

Oh Well/Heartbreak Hotel (Fleetwood Mac, Elvis)

Blackbird (Beatles)

The Fracking Song

Watch Your Man

Green River/Born on the Bayou (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Coffee

Bipolar Love

I Believe in Miracles (Hot Chocolate)

A Day in the Life (The Beatles)

Just moments later, Hunter and the Bear launched themselves onto the stage in a pleasingly rock n’ roll fashion! The entire set was high energy, slowing down only slightly to catch their breath during their calmer-paced tracks.

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This band has been compared to popular folk bands such as Of Monsters and Men and Mumford and Sons, but for me the guys have a much more rock edge to their style, complete with a solo from each band member (Chris’ bass solo was most excellent…!) and definitely the image to go with it. Comparisons are way too freely made on this occasion methinks!

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I couldn’t stop smiling during the entire gig – the band’s energy was infectious and the effect on the crowd was that they were mentally tethered to the guys and their music throughout.

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Hunter and the Bear are garnering a reputation a lot of bands these days would be envious of. They’ve got a following, they’ve got charisma and attitude, they’ve got awesome tunes, they’re getting gigs at great venues and most of all they’re selling tickets and hopefully albums aplenty.

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I came away from the gig tonight feeling happier than I have in ages and with a brand new favourite band in my heart.

Hunter and the Bear’s setlist:

Who’s Gonna Hear You

Hologram

Hey, My Love

Renegade

Evelyn

Burn it Up

Blood Red Skies

Warrior

I Am What I Am

You Can Talk

D.R.K.

Oh, Daisy

Won’t You Ever Come Home

Like a Runaway

Paper Heart

Nickajack

My advice? Get along and see them on their upcoming tour before they’re playing venues where you can’t get close anymore!

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Gig Review: @KateTempest at The Plug, Sheffield, 3rd December 2016

Photos: Fi Stimpson

Words: Richard Mackman & Fi Stimpson

Kate Tempest would make a great resistance leader. Her charisma and intellectual persona are beyond captivating and convincing. There is almost an obsessive and rabid bond with the audience tonight – everybody is paying attention. Simply, what we get tonight is the entirety of the new album “Let Them Eat Chaos”. In a nutshell, it’s a damning indictment of the state of the world right now. I can almost smell revolution in the air with each inhalation of breath.

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An interesting crowd, this – older Corbyn types mixed in with politically aware student bods. Intelligent dance music and rap aficionados, pockets of crust punks and squatty folk. Kate attracts the cynical, the thinkers, those that do not believe the news on their TV screens, those of us that are mightily dissatisfied with the human condition.

This gig pans out like a play; the songs are the acts and scenes. Tempest’s poetic imagery is all-consuming – her conjuring up of characters, settings and situations is almost 3 dimensional. You can’t take your eyes off her – at points, the sensory overload is profound. Lyrically, there is an abundance to ponder.

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The way she asserts herself is almost frightening to behold at times. Her sense of injustice and outrage expressed so compellingly febrile. This woman is a tormented poet of our time. I am acutely aware that I am witnessing something sacrosanct. For someone who is short in stature and, dare I say it, ordinary looking, Kate Tempest is a formidable maelstrom.

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I played the album in its entirety in the car on the way home, and recalled almost all of it from the show. Bear in mind I had never heard those songs before tonight…

To experience this again is mandatory. Watch this space.

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Gig Review: Dr Feelgood at Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, 1st December 2016

Photos: Fi Stimpson

Words: Richard Mackman and Fi Stimpson

Dr Feelgood are an enigma of a band. The fact that they feature no original member and all current players are third generation is unusual to say the least. However, what you have on offer is a ferociously tight and joyfully authentic Rhythm and Blues outfit that does credit and is a worthy testimony to the two early classic line-ups.

Front man Robert Kane is a striking, dapper fella, almost like an action man, all starey eyed and jutting jaw. He’s not Lee Brilleaux, but who is, eh? His soft but assertive Sunderland accent is endearing yet commanding. He is also a mean harp player. Considering he has such a big set of shoes to fill, Kane performs with confidence and ease.

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Guitarist Steve Walwyn is quite possibly the most consistent and focussed guitar player I have witnessed in quite some time. He plucks a rich, ripe tone from his Telecasters and with traditional player dynamics and staggering slide skills, he is enthralling to watch. He also comes across as being an incredibly genial gent.

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Stand-out numbers in the set were “Back in the Night”, “If My Baby Quit Me”, “She Does It Right” and “Rolling and Tumbling” – Walwyn’s opportunity to really shine both vocally and with the bottleneck.

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Phil Mitchell governs stage left wielding probably the most road-worn p bass I’ve ever seen, like some kind of rock n’ roll John Pertwee, locking in effortlessly with drummer Kevin Morris.

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The crowd this evening – the Feelgood Family – are into this show 100% with a loyalty and familiarity for the material. The intimate and cosy setting of Stamford’s Voodoo Lounge is perfect.

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This is only the third time I’ve seen them in recent years, but Feelgoods are always a band I’d be very keen to see again. Long may they continue.

Gig Review: @Pixies, 02 Academy Brixton, Monday 28th November 2016

Pixies, 02 Academy Brixton, Monday 28th November 2016

Written by Zoe Spencer

It’s been 11 years since I last saw Pixies, at the Aircraft-Hanger-esqe Alexandra Palace. It was the fulfilment of a childhood dream. We camped out for hours in the empty hall to be sure of a front row spot. My other half had never really heard of Pixies but he still describes that night as one of the best live gigs he has ever seen. I was the stereotypical fan girl, totally smitten from first note – utterly blown away – it was a real high point of my gig going career. So, to say my expectations were high would be a gigantic (get it?) understatement.

Upon arriving at the 02 Academy I was treated to a very thorough frisk (I’m not sure the third bottom squeeze was entirely necessary…) and a bag search – sadly there was nothing more exciting than a notepad and pen (much to my friend’s amusement at how “old school” I am). Looking around at my fellow concert goers, I was hit with a sense of my own impending middle age; where were the Grungers? The Punks? Where were the bloody teenagers? I was awash in a sea of hipsters and ridiculous moustaches. My sense of displacement was further deepened by catching sight of the tea towels on the Pixies merchandise stand… what every middle-aged rocker needs….

Taking my place in the 5000-strong throng, a shadowy Pixies took to the stage, and without so much as a “hello Brixton” pre-amble, they are straight into the good stuff with the anthemic sing-a-long, “Where is My Mind?” The band is on form this evening, Black Francis’ vocals are as strange and wonderful as ever as they motor from one classic to the next – the set is relentless and spans all seven albums with even a couple of b-sides and covers of Neil Young’s “Winterlong” and Scottish veterans The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On” (featured on Pixies Trompe Le Monde Album) getting a look in.

The set sways from one decade to another, in a collection of songs spanning nearly 30 years. And yet, there are no songs that jar, of course the “Doolittle” and “Surfer Rosa” tracks are the ones that have the crowd singing along – the irresistible nod at a pop love song “Here comes your Man” is a particular highlight for me, and “Havalina” was beautiful. But newbies like “Tenement Song” from “Head Carrier” stand strong amongst the classics.

If I’m being completely honest there were times when the sound guys could have been working harder – bass and vocals were feeding back at several points in the first hour but Pixies have always had a rawness that can take a bit of buzz. I would have been disappointed to have left without a little bit of a headache!

The set motors on, song after song (although of course most Pixies songs come in short bursts) with not a peep in between – the stage is dark and back lit, full of smoke and the lack of banter adds to the surrealness they do so well… I was happy to see that guitarist Joey Santiago was completing the line-up after his recent stay in rehab with signature unpolished surfy tones. However, the real revelation for me was the wonderful Paz Lenchantin – having seen the original line up featuring Kim Deal, bringing a splash of colour to the monochrome stage with a large floppy red flower attached to the headstock of her bass. After so much time I wonder if the comparisons to Kim Deal become galling (Gigantic was a notable exception to the set – Monkey’s Gone to Heaven also sadly absent) however Paz stood her very leggy ground. The bass was deliciously punky and growly and her vocals strong – in that quirky way Pixies do so well.

When this 2-hour marathon draws to its tumultuous conclusion with a fantastic last run of “Hey”, “Gouge Away”, the magnificent “Debaser” and finally the throat wrenching “Tame”, the band take their bows in silence and leave the stage. Still not a word.

They return to the stage for their encore and the whole room is flooded with smoke – seriously it was like walking into a cloud – Pixies humour perhaps, because Paz then delivers a haunting version of “Into the White” before they disappear in the smoke screen like ghosts in the night.

In short as loud and weird and wonderful as you would come to expect although, next time guys, maybe say “hey” – after all we’ve been “trying to meet you”.

Set list;

Where is my mind?

Nimrod’s Son

Break my body

Brick is red

Winterlong (Neil Young)

Blown Away

Mr. Grieves

La La Love You

Ana

All the Saints

Here Comes your Man

Motorway to Roswell

Magdalena 318

Tenement Song

Classic Masher

Head on (The Jesus and Mary Chain)

U-Mass

I’ve Been Tired

Velouria

Havalina

Snakes

Caribou

Rock Music

Baal’s Back

Isla de Enchanta

Oona

Planet of Sound

All I Think About Now

Hey

Gouge Away

Debaser

Tame

Into the White

Gig Review: Sleaford Mods, Rock City, 3rd November 2016 @SleafordMods @Rock_City_Notts

Words: Richard Mackman

Photos: Fi Stimpson

An edgy sense of anticipation was apparent as I entered Rock City on 3rd November 2016. The venue was filling up with a veritable horde of punters. It’s the kind of gig where it’s alright to be weird, because everyone’s a bit fucking weird here.

The electronic punk duo take the stage to a victorious acclamation from the closely packed crowd. I feel that this is an act coming into their prime now, who are clearly relishing their time in the spotlight as a venerated phenomenon.

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What we get tonight is a much more oblique set than a year ago –  less of the obvious and more of the unusual, including 3 brand new ditties replete with suitably pithy sarcastic expletives and which were more than enough to have me eagerly anticipating their next release.

Williamson’s antics this evening (he’s got some brand-new moves) as he hustles himself around the stage conjure an image of a baboon with Tourette’s.

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The geezer operating the devil’s karaoke, Andrew Fearn, lurks in the background like a minacious persona, Beck’s bottle tightly in fist, aiding and abetting.

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Sleaford Mods are almost impossible to pigeonhole. A band that divide opinion, just like fucking Marmite. We witness a caustic blend of Crass-age Punk copulating with Cooper Clarke on Meth and Lydon trussed up in the boot of your car with Cirrhosis itch.

Jason Williamson is for real. In his words… “What you’ve got to remember, when you leave here tonight, is that you didn’t come here to see Sleaford Mods – we came here to see you”.

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Gig Review: @WilkoJohnson at @CambridgeCornEx , 14th October 2016

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There’s very little I can say about a Wilko Johnson gig that hasn’t already been said in the majority of reviews. We all know he’s returned from the brink, against all the odds, and is still going strong. We all know what an incredible musician and songwriter he is, both with Dr Feelgood and as a solo artist. We all know that his loyal band members Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe have been chosen because they are faultless, have impressive stage presence and are exciting to listen to. I don’t really need to tell you any of that though, do I.

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Sometimes, though, even knowing all of the details like those above can’t prepare you for attending a gig which culminates in everything being resolved in your mind, where you feel perfectly relaxed to be yourself and like you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

First off, he selected a wonderful support act in the shape of Aaron Keylock, a young Blues Prog Rock guitarist and singer with his trusty bassist and drummer by his side.

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I was blown away by this guy – he is seriously worth checking out. Here’s his new single “Against the Grain”:

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Wilko with his wild duck walk, wild eyes and even wilder guitar playing, Norman’s bass solos that make you shiver both inside and out and Howe’s bombastic, full-bodied beat tightly melded together to form a musical force that got people rising from their seats to move every muscle, pore and follicle. A good old boogie-woogie to classic blues and rock n’ roll, and all is right with the world.

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Video by Alien Outback on YouTube:

Until next time, “Bye Bye…”!

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Gig Review: Spector, Basement at Rock City, Nottingham, 28th May 2016

Spector, Basement at Rock City, 28th May 2016

At 7.30pm when I arrived at Rock City for Friday night’s show on Spector’s “Tenner” tour, there was hardly anyone present and for a while I wondered if this would be a show with a shockingly poor attendance. Even when Fred MacPherson and Jed Cullen entertained the crowd with their DJ set (ok, in my opinion the tunes were questionable but that’s just down to my musical taste), no-one seemed to be showing much of an interest. My worries were soon allayed as the crowd gradually grew and became more eager, whooping and shouting for their much-loved Spector to arrive onto stage. At 8.30pm precisely, they did exactly that, much to mass unrivalled joy.

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From the onset, and with a look of a very well dressed gent crossed with a science professor, Macpherson instructs the crowd as a tutor does his lectures and they respond with vigorous rapture as if they are the most motivated students ever known. Performing experiments as “Never Fade Away”, “Friday Night, Don’t Let It Ever End” and “Chevy Thunder” results in an explosion of voices from the crowd and the arrival of a few extra worried looking security personnel after the first song!

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Macpherson quickly and willingly succumbs to the clamours of the crowd and gets up close and personal. His crowd interaction is second to none, with personal dedications for the 23rd anniversary of the couple in front of me (her advice for a long marriage? “be happy, love each other and the rest will follow”), the two French girls who have journeyed to the UK for three Spector gigs, and for birthday girl Rebecca who is beautifully serenaded. No band is under any obligation to do this kind of thing, so it’s a heart-warming sight to witness one who does.

There is a constant buzz in the air, a certain charisma emanating from the stage and a charged energy in the eclectic crowd (teenage girls through to men in their late 50s and everything in-between). Every single song whips the crowd into a frenzy during which it’s difficult at times to tell one jumping, bellowing body from the next!

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Following this 90-minute not entirely scientific experiment, I conclude that the whole evening depicted a love connecting the band directly to the audience, where the feeling between each party was entirely mutual.

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If you ever feel a little bit lost, head for a Spector gig – I have no doubt that it will provide several moments of clarity and an overriding sense of all being right with the world. A point in time to cling to, that’s for sure.

Gig Review: The Ghost Riders in the Sky at Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, 27th May 2016

It was with great anticipation that I headed down to my favourite home town venue on Friday. I was to see a band relatively new to me but who I was very excited by; The Ghost Riders in the Sky.

First on stage were a band from Cambridge called Meet Me At Dawn. As soon as they graced the stage, I spotted that bass wielding Ross was sporting a Pink Floyd t-shirt – good taste, that man!

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An excellent choice of opener, Meet Me At Dawn launched into a set of punk-rock tunes, deep lyrics in abundance and a heavy hint of Green Day’s style. I was impressed, and made sure to tell them post-gig. I’d love to see them in their home town as I can imagine they pull a great crowd in!

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Meet Me At Dawn’s self-titled EP is available now on Bandcamp, and their new single “Heartless” is out soon in all the usual places.

Next up were Cambridgeshire based Phoenix Calling – I’d heard very good things about them, but never had the chance to see them. They supported Young Guns on their recent UK tour, been featured by Johnny Doom on Kerrang! radio, and have headlined regional festivals such as The Willow Fest, reportedly going down a storm!

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What immediately struck me was their unbridled energy – vocalist Steve was all over the stage; getting photos of him was a challenge, but one that I enjoyed immensely! What these guys did particularly well was get the (albeit small) audience on side – the room suddenly filled with joy when they performed their mash-up of I’m Yours, One Love and Prince of Bel Air – anyone who can make a Jason Mraz song sound good has my vote!

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Powerful, compelling tunes are what makes up Phoenix Calling’s set. They somehow manage to compress warmth, intensity and fun into one package. The band’s rapport is genuine and heart-warming, and their passion for what they do is palpable.

You can buy their album “Forget Your Ghosts” here and see them live at various shows up and down the country, including a very recently announced gig on 2nd July at Festival Too supporting The Vamps!

Finally, the band I had been so looking forward to seeing, The Ghost Riders in the Sky, crept almost nervously onto the stage.

When I first stumbled upon them, the fact that their band name was taken from a Johnny Cash song had not gone unnoticed – I figure that anyone who likes his work is onto a good thing. I then learned that the band is the brainchild of former Gallows guitarist Steph Carter (brother Frank was also in Gallows – you may also associate him more recently with The Rattlesnakes…) and my interest increased a fair few notches!

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Fronted by singer Gillian, who I heard someone describe as a cross between Audrey Hepburn and Hermione Grainger, and with the band on an equal pegging looks-wise, this was to be a gig with something for everyone in the eye candy stakes, at the very least!

It may have been the sum of being shattered after a hard week at work + insomnia + out of work “stuff” + a few beers = a hypnotised state, but I doubt I’d have felt quite so mesmerised if some shoddy pop group or mediocre covers band had been in attendance. From the very first note, I felt as hooked on the music as the band looked.

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Every song was gracefully delivered, each note eloquently pronounced, and whenever I looked at a different member of the band they were fully immersed in what they were doing – I doubt that even an earthquake at 9.5 on the Richter scale could have stopped them playing.

Gillian has got a cracking voice – in places, she reminded me of Suzanne Vega, and at one point I thought of Maria McKee when singing “If Love is a Red Dress”. Beautiful, and matched perfectly to the both the searing rock music and that with a more sympathetic, tender feel.

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Carter describes their genre as British Americana, and having witnessed it live that makes complete sense. It’s a definite departure from his work with Gallows – it’s not so deliberate that it feels forced, though, and therefore has a natural honesty to it that is very attractive.

In essence, The Ghost Riders in the Sky brought another world to Stamford that night. I have no doubt that they are absolutely made for bigger things, but conversely they suit this venue perfectly – I just wish more people had been there to witness this phenomenal evening!

New single “Wastelands” is out now – have a listen…

You can buy (in Gillian’s words, not mine) “t-shirts and vinyls and CDs and bullshit and bullshit” here – I bought “The Death of Everything New” album on vinyl, and am waiting for some time alone when I can be fully engrossed in it.

New favourite band? I think so!

Gig Review: @TheBluetones @Rock_City_Notts , 30th April 2016

The Bluetones, Rock City, Nottingham, 30th April 2016

The Ruffs

The first support came from local band The Ruffs. Singer Connor Spray looks like Stu Macher from Scream, but thankfully doesn’t appear to be the murderous type, especially when it comes to his songs.

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A band whose music is firmly rooted in the traditional indie style, they are a cross between The Verve and Oasis with endless natural energy for their on-stage endeavours. Strong, distinctive vocals are at the forefront of a set of catchy tunes that make your feet tap involuntarily.

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It’s clear that some of the crowd know and love this band already, and they get an excellent reception all ‘round! Much deserved, I say.

Nigel Clarke

It was very pleasant to see Dodgy’s Nigel Clarke wander onto stage armed with his acoustic guitar. Even better was the realisation that his voice hadn’t wavered over time and that the crowd was up for joining in.

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Nigel performed some of his solo tunes and upcoming new songs from Dodgy, promised for release later in 2016. I doubt he could have got away with not playing some much-loved older songs – “In a Room”, “Staying Out for the Summer” and “Good Enough” transposed well to one man and his guitar.

The collective mood was immediately lifted, and the audience were enjoying being 20 years younger again!

The Bluetones

I shall commence with a confession. I’ve never seen The Bluetones live before, despite being a consistent listener and lover of their music for the past 21 years. I did see Mark Morriss do a brilliant, intimate solo gig in Stamford a few years back, but have always felt that I missed out big time on seeing the band back in the day, so when the second leg of the 20th Anniversary Jukebox Tour was announced I was 100% determined to be in attendance, no matter what.

Walking out onto stage, it struck me that none of the guys seem to have aged at all, which adds to the feeling of stepping back a couple of decades in time. Having said that, although this is something of a trip down memory lane, it doesn’t feel entirely like reminiscence as the music is still hugely relevant and wouldn’t be out of place as a new release – these are songs that stand the test of time.

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Frontman Mark Morriss has an irresistible charm and audience-deprecating humour which does the opposite of alienating, it merely brings about another level of affection directed from the floor to the stage.

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Selecting songs for this particular jukebox must have been joyful yet difficult with their prolific back catalogue to choose from. They ended up with the perfect mix of the more obvious songs that the punters would hope for along with some of the lesser-known tracks such as “Fast Boy”, “Never Going Nowhere” and the very beautiful “Tiger Lily”.

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Multi-faceted guitarist Adam Devlin really colours in the songs with his intricate, craftful six-string skills.

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What I love about The Bluetones is the indie jollity and the fact there is none of that brash Madchester vibe to go with it. There is a certain sophistication to this band, enhanced by elements of The Mutton Birds, The Monkees (particularly Pleasant Valley Sunday) and gentler moments of The Jam.

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After “Firefly” came a tribute to Prince as the guys slotted “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” into their set. This was preceded by a short speech from Mark about enjoying while we’ve got while it’s here, with the band’s merch stand as an example… cue much laughter!

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In conclusion, and in the deliberately sarcastic words of Mark Morriss himself, this gig was “quite nice”.

Set List:

Talking to Clarry

Are You Blue or Are You Blind?

Cut Some Rug

Mudslide

The Fountainhead

Keep the Home Fires Burning

Marblehead Johnson

Sleazy Bed Track

Fast Boy

Never Goin’ Nowhere

Bluetonic

Tiger Lily

Carnt be Trusted

Solomon Bites the Worm

Firefly

I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man (Prince)

Slight Return

After Hours

Encore:

The Simple Things segueing into Express Yourself (Madonna)

If