Do you remember a band called The Bluetones? You know them, they sang that song that goes “You don't have to have the solution, You've got to invest in the problem, And don't go hoping for a miracle”, remember now? Of course you do! Well, we were invited to attend the final night of their 8 date 20th Anniversary ‘Jukebox’ Tour which was being hosted at the O2 Academy in Bristol, read on to see how it went….
We arrived at the venue ahead of our 4pm scheduled time to chat to Mark Morriss, lead singer of The Bluetones, he was running a little late and as a result, we listened to the band sound check a few of their classics from the glamorous viewpoint of the fire exit doors. Their manager wandered past and we introduced ourselves, he invited us in and we saw the band and crew stood on the stage having a photo taken by one of the lighting guys who was stood halfway up a ladder (the light was clearly better from an elevated position!)
It transpired that Mark was busy with another journalist and scurried off to the tour bus to kick things off, luckily for us, Adam Devlin (lead guitarist) was free so we retreated to the upstairs section of the tour bus where we got comfy and had a chat about the early days, social media and other interesting things. During out chat, we were joined by the drummer Eds Chesters who pitched in on a couple of answers, giving Adam a break! We thanked the guys for their time and made haste to a local hostelry to partake in some fine dining and pre show entertainment courtesy of the rugby World Cup prior to wandering back to the venue at 7pm for the doors to open.
Opening up proceedings were a band hailing from St Austell and London called The Velvet Hands, who are no strangers to facing large crowds having recently played at the Newquay based super festival ‘Boardmasters’ and last weekends ‘Looe Festival’. Their guitar and vocal style was reminiscent of the output of Messrs. Barat & Docherty (The Libertines), The Strokes and the early sound honed by The Rolling Stones, not a bad set of influences even if I say so myself.
Their drummer took over vocal duties for one song which I think would have sounded better had he not, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the guy couldn’t sing, I just think that unless you’re called ‘Phil’ and used to be in a 70’s/80’s band called Genesis, you’re better off leaving the vocals to another member of the band to perform.
They had a confident swagger about them and I’m sure it won’t be long until they pick up the recognition that they deserve on the mainstream circuit. Highlights of their set for me included their new single ‘Games’ and a cover of The Stones’ ‘The Last Time’, which had the audience bouncing along nicely. One thing I would say is that the amount of feedback from one guitar was quite off-putting, I’m unsure if it was intentional, if it was, they did a sterling job of re-enacting the early sound of The Jesus and Mary Chain, if it wasn’t, I would like to see them again as I think their entire sound would be so much more improved. They mentioned that they have a new song out on October 9th and a video available from Sept 28th, check their social media for more information.
Next up was a very lively and loveable trio from Tunbridge Wells going by the name The Standard Lamps. They opened up with their rolling track ‘I’m a Little Bit Scared of You’ which was a great way to introduce themselves to this near capacity audience who had flocked to the O2 in Bristol on this Sunday night for a stunning night of musical entertainment. Next up, they played ‘The Model World’, a song that had been recently featured on Radio 2 courtesy of Janice Long’s ‘After Midnight’ show, it was aired at 12:41am and they went on to say that their trucker fan-base had increased drastically!
‘The Harmonica Song’ was a real favourite in their hometown, having sold nearly 100 copies! It went down a storm with this crowd, the classic tone of the harmonica and the bluesy vocals really proving that this trio could walk the walk as well as talk the talk. They dazzled us with a brilliant cover of Dylan’s ‘I Shall be Released’ which showcased some exquisite guitar skills, ‘Living with Mum & Dad’ featured a tremendous guitar lick and proved them to be an experienced band who could wow the room with their music and make them laugh like drains with their ‘between song banter’ which was equally on par with any comedy club compere.
They ended their set with a full on heavy breakdown which left the audience cheering for more, sadly, their time was up but if you want more, why not go buy their CD, we just received a copy which we’ll be reviewing very soon, I just gave it a first spin and it is incredible, seriously, go and buy it NOW, you can thank me later!
The room had filled up nicely, the bar was 3 thick and the toilets were standing room only (no worries if you’re a man…) the lights dimmed, the room was filled with Rainbow’s classic 80’s rock track ‘Since You Been Gone’ as The Bluetones strode onto the stage, reformed and ready, they all looked amazingly well, lithe, toned and ready to entertain the masses (for the next 90 minutes at least).
They set out their stall with a flawless version of ‘Are You Blue or Are You Blind’, sounding every bit as good as it did way back in 1996, it’s swaggering bass line, the jangly, indie guitar and driving beats all topped off by Mark Morriss’s trademark vocals really took you back to a time when British music was making a huge mark on the world.
The smiles on the faces of the fans were apparent as they launched into ‘Cut Some Rug’, again with its swirling, mesmerizing tune that enthralled throughout.
Their set covered everything from the early days through to the early noughties, they kicked into the bass heavy ‘Mudslide’ that had the band ‘shooping’ along for the duration. ‘4 Day Weekend’ kicked in, showcasing Adam’s guitar skills and how they effortlessly combined with Scott’s bass to produce some captivating sounds. Things were knocked down a peg or two with ‘The Fountainhead’, again, some classic guitar coming through over the light back beat and bass, Mark’s voice shimmering like a star in the night.
Mark took time to thank the audience for coming out on a Sunday night and mentioned that with the tour, there were a lot of questions flying about as to whether they would be producing any new music in the near future, he made reference to the fact that as nobody bought there last 2 albums, maybe the ‘fans’ should go and get accustomed to this prior to them creating anything new, very amusing! He went on to ask how he could keep the Bristol fans onside, what better way that with a song about domestic abuse? Prior to playing ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’.
‘Marblehead Johnson’ led into ‘Sleazy Bed Track’ which paved the way for the classic tones of ‘Bluetonic’ with it’s trademark chorus, prompting a healthy looking bunch of ‘well watered’ gentlemen to start jumping up and down and generally causing a rumpus in the first 3 rows. ‘Tiger Lily’ allowed Scott to showcase his bass playing prowess whilst Eds played drums with brushes, allowing Mark to croon over the top, a classic track indeed.
Mark introduced the 5th member of the band on keyboards, a chap called Alex who he failed to introduce at the Birmingham show, after doing this, he said that he would introduce him again after the next song, which he did, Alex of course, receiving a massive cheer!
The energetic sounds of ‘Fast Boy’ was dedicated to a chap called Mike who used to supply the band with their medicinal requirements on tour, it was then that Mark mentioned that because the setlist was made up of the fans favourite tracks, they were surely allowed to indulge themselves with a few of their own? I was half expecting a track that was released as the B-Side on the Japanese Fan Club Christmas special 10 inch pink vinyl but how surprised was I as they launched into their classic track ‘Slight Return’, taking the roof off the O2 in the process! Announcing that this would be the last track prior to the band exiting the stage, they played ‘Putting Out Fires’, another classic lifted from their debut album which had the fans screaming for more as soon as they had said their (temporary farewells).
After a few minutes, the band took to the stage once again to grace us with another few tracks, Mark again taking time to thank everyone for coming to see them and asking people to ‘enjoy themselves sensibly’ and to ‘take long walks’ unlike they did back in their days of hedonism and endless parties. With these words of wisdom, they launched into ‘After Hours’ which went down a treat! They kept up the momentum with ‘I was a Teenage Jesus’, which, being a B-Side received a huge cheer when announced, proving that the room was full of die hard fans who had fallen in love with the band from the early days.
Things took an amusing turn as they tried to cobble together a cover version of Hendrix’s ‘The Wind Cries Mary’, not having rehearsed it at all and nobody knowing any of the chords or notes, this shambolic approach to song-writing was short lived, ending up with the band cutting things short, very amusing though! They said that they were going to play a cover during the set and it was time, it took me a moment to realize it was the classic theme tune from ‘Minder’ by Dennis Waterman, ‘I Could be So Good For You’ was belted out whilst everyone sung along to the opening verse and chorus but fell at the first hurdle when Mark started the second verse (I think the TV show only used the initial verse!)
As things came to a close, Mark said how much he had enjoyed their short tour and said that he was looking forward to dong more dates next Spring where they would be splitting up after every gig and then reforming in the morning, ready for the next date! With his final blessings of ‘Watch your diets’, the band kicked into ‘If’ which included a fabulous ‘na-na-na’ along at the end, the whole audience singing like there was no tomorrow, what a way to end a show!
From the balcony, the show had been a resounding success, we were taken on a journey through their back catalogue, I honestly never realised that they had produced so many great songs and I will make a point of digging out all my old Bluetones CD’s and get them fed into my iPod so I can enjoy them once again. I may be 43 years old but listening to this lot takes me back to a time before kids, before mortgages and responsibilities, times when I would do silly things in clubs at 2am and spend the night wandering about town not knowing who or what I had become, yes folks, The Bluetones came and conquered and I personally can’t wait for more shows and the possibility of new material from this super talented bunch of loveable Londoners….
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Julian Baird © JULIANBAIRD.COM