As The Bluetones return with their 20th-anniversary tour, Getintothis’ Del Pike rediscovers one of Britain’s best unsung singles bands and comes home grinning like a Cheshire cat.
It’s not too often that you come home from a gig smiling literally all the way home, especially when you live in Waterloo, but tonight was one of those nights. Who could have guessed that those Britpop outsiders The Bluetones could raise such joy twenty years after releasing their debut album, Expecting to Fly (AKA, The one with the peacock on the sleeve)? But they did.
Before the party starts, we are treated to Liverpool’s Indigo Moon who have been attracting some attention lately. Those in the know could confidently liken vocalist Ashley Colley’s voice to Dolly Read, the uber-groovy singer from The Carrie Nations, the fictional band in Russ Meyer’s brilliant Beyond the valley of the dolls film. The band has that whole late 60s West Coast vibe going on and deliver some powerful tunes to warm up the crowd in a slightly chilly Arts Club.
Its not clear whether it was down to the sound desk or the band but the vocals and powerhouse drums dominated the set (not necessarily a bad thing), but this left the rest of the band sounding a little muted. Guitar wig outs were not as satisfying as they could have been in fairness. A great set, all wavy hair and killer riffs suggesting that Indigo Moon have got their sights on a bright future, and deservedly so.
Scottish three piece, Miracle Glass Company make a real impression tonight due to their eclectic mix of tracks and clear respect for our City. The band who are releasing in their words, three voices, three singles in three months, win the audience over when Austen George displays his LFC scarf and dedicates the soft rock of The Hidden Light to the 96; a reminder to the vigil that is taking place elsewhere in the city gives us an opportunity to reflect.
Whilst it’s lazy to fill a review comparing a band to their influences, MGC are begging for it as they wear their influences boldly on their sleeve, so The Big Beat sounds like The Beatles and other tracks in the set call in on Doctor Feelgood, Paul Weller, Squeeze and Ocean Colour Scene. They play well and they entertain, chanting and chatting to the crowd like old buddies, but there is an identity crisis at large that could do with a little honing. Their final track, Calling is a belter, though. (Note to band – from where we were stood the backdrop read Miracle Ass Company for most of the gig due to Austen George’s head…just saying).
When The Bluetones take the stage to the opening strains of Expecting to Fly, Talking to Clarry the first thing that strikes you is how much they sound exactly like they did back then, and how Mark Morriss hasn’t aged a day. The Hounslow also-rans are one of the most unfortunate bands of the whole Britpop era. They had the tunes by the skip load but just didn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of Oasis, Blur, and Pulp.
It’s difficult to recall a band this long in the tooth sounding so on the ball, each hit, and they come fast and thick sound exactly like their recorded counterparts but with a whole load more balls. Cut Some Rug just makes you want to go back and shout to those fools in 1996 to listen more carefully, it’s a bonafide classic.
Marblehead Johnson (written about Bill Hicks) comes too soon, what a tune, that strolling opening gambit brings back far too memories of summers past along with the cry of “Tonighighighite I’m wound tighter than a watch spring”, sublime. The hits keep coming – Bluetonic, Mudslide, Can’t Be Trusted and the brilliant Sleazy Bed Track alongside lesser known gems like Tiger Lily and Fast Boy.
One of the key factors in tonight being so joyous is the fact that Morriss is just so damn funny. The theme of the night appears to be that the band took a break because their audience was rubbish, so a Stewart Lee-esque attack on the audience ensues but with no danger of ever offending. The fact that there is little chance of the band gaining any new fans is also a recurring motif in Morriss’s gags. The age of the crowd is noted as he tells us to all take care of ourselves before we leave.
Every tune you could want to hear tonight is played, with the added bonus of a note-perfect cover of Prince’s I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man, so well executed it couldn’t fail to bring a tear to the eye.
The final run of tracks has the obvious inclusion of Slight Return, “For all listeners of Heart FM” and the cheesy nadir of After Hours, the only minor misstep tonight. A slip of the tongue gives away the final flourish of the epic and luscious If, so we get Marblehead Johnson B-Side The Simple Things and then surprise-surprise…If. It’s the perfect closer with its “Nah nah nah nah nah” chant at the end.
It became so clear tonight that The Bluetones could be one of Britain’s most underrated singles bands and their Best of CD could well be an Unsung classic. This was the ultimate feel good gig and a total surprise to be fair. A big deal was made by Mark Morriss tonight of the fact that this was their comeback, and in many ways rightly so, a joy from start to finish.