Memories of sitting in a field waiting for Travis to appear at V99 in Weston Park came flooding back to me in the run up to this gig. The Bluetones “If..” makes a brief appearance over the PA, and subsequently proved that Travis, despite the hype, just weren’t that good.
The fact that one, pre-recorded track, outclassed virtually every other bands performance that day, including Manic Street Preachers and with the exception of the Levellers and perhaps the Beautiful South, shows that the Bluetones have some great songs and a great presence and I always expected much from this band. But, as is often the case with the “next big thing”, disappointment is quite often all that is delivered and after three or so albums and the next soon to be released, the Bluetones, to me, have turned into just what we don’t need, a second rate House of Love.
Fortunately for them, although the majority of the tracks on each album are almost instantly forgettable, the great songs shine out light stars in the night sky. This is what saves tonight’s gig, which was intended as a small tour of small venues to re-launch the Bluetones career. The new songs, and there were quite a few, are not brilliant (one, “In the City (?)”, sounded like a bad Big Audio Dynamite), but are not bad, with the exception of the next single “I don’t love you anymore” (not entirely sure of the title), which was the band at their very best and as they said on the night, “We expect you to be sick of this song by the summer”. It should do very well for them, top 10 at least, provided it gets the airplay!
The night was made for me by the appearance of the old favourites and I would have gone home very disappointed if they had not played any. The last song before the encore, “If..”, is the highlight of any of their shows and went down the best of the lot tonight, breaking into a brief rendition of Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga”, just before the excellent “Nah nahs” of the finale.
“Bluetonic”, “Keep the home fires burning” and a cover of The Rain Parade’s “Blue” also stood out, making most of the new stuff sound comparatively mediocre.
The banter with the audience was also a little draining and the last time I saw them, at Rock City, they were a lot better. To introduce each song with the words “Ladies and Gentlemen” and then go on to tell us a little story about the song may be ok once or twice, but before every song it just became a bit of a bore. Just play the music guys, you can do that a lot better.
Still, the hardcore fans at the front seemed to enjoy the gig immensely, bouncing up and down throughout, though how they managed this considering how sticky the floor was and how hot it was, I’ll never know. A lot of missing shoes that had got stuck to the floor were probably recovered at the end of the evening.
There was even one guy at the side who was “air- drumming”!
To be fair, the band did apologise for attempting to brainwash us with the new stuff and in my opinion this showed that they know they can do a lot better as well.
Perhaps I’ve been spoilt recently, having seen such great bands in the space of a few months, but the Bluetones, despite obviously having the song writing and musical talent just didn’t quite do it for me tonight.
Still, I wish them luck with the new album and single. I hope they do well.