30 April 2016 at Rock City, Nottingham
After interviewing Bluetones guitarist Adam Devlin recently and asking him about the upcoming extended Jukebox Tour, it was time to go and see the lads in action at Rock City and see if what he had told me would come to fruition.
I’ve lived in Nottingham now for well over ten years and seem to spend an inordinate amount of time sticking to the floor of Rock City. One thing I hadn’t done there though was see my favourites in action. Not only would this be a great gig, but it would also be amazing to see them on my home turf at last.
There were two support acts for the evening, local band The Ruffs and an acoustic set by Nigel from the band Dodgy. Interestingly, I heard (anecdotally of course) that someone had asked why the guy on stage with the guitar was singing lots of Dodgy songs. Ahem. Moving swiftly on…
Being someone who likes to not only take in the band, but also the crowd and their reactions, I positioned myself at the back of the room where I had a good view of the stage and the audience. Although the room wasn’t full to capacity, there were plenty of folks of a certain age who were there to enjoy the nostalgia trip of the last twenty years. This isn’t called the Jukebox tour for nothing.
Striding onto the stage and looking like they haven’t aged that much over the course of their career, the show starts with the wonderful Talking To Clarry. A nod to the brilliance of the debut album Expecting to Fly and a great way to open up and get the crowd moving. This was quickly followed by Are Your Blue Or Are you Blind? which kept the throwback chills of the mid nineties very much in the room. Next up is Cut Some Rug and the crowd sing out the lyrics with gusto and I enjoy watching the people in front of me do exactly that.
Mark Morriss is ever the charming frontman, with his deprecating humour which should probably offend the audience in some respects, but does the opposite and makes the band seem a little bit more accessible. I mean, telling us that they didn’t break up because they were tired of each other’s faces, but it was actually our faces that did it is cheek personified!
Mudslide comes next before the band take things down a notch and give us the beautiful The Fountainhead. I’m sure some of the crowd are there for the well known hits (and THAT song in particular), but the band have such a wealth of back catalogue to pick from that I have no clue as to what we will be hearing tonight.
When the brass in the intro starts the assembled all know that the next song to be played is Keep The Home Fires Burning. A track that means a great deal to a lot of friends I have and with good reason. The crowd join in and arms sway in unison in front of me.
Continuing onwards, as there’s so much to get through, we have the wonderful Marblehead Johnson closely followed by another slower song Sleazy Bed Track before the louder Fast Boy takes us back up again. Sticking with the album that seems to have been overlooked Luxembourg, the next track out of the box is a piece of pop class Never Going Nowhere before one of the big hitters, the amazing Bluetonic rings out. Watching Mark bust out some serious moves on stage like he’s back in 1996, I smile to myself and consider the last twenty years and how this band have remained in my life throughout that period.
Next up is one of my favourite songs and one that is often passed over, the gorgeous Tiger Lily. Hidden away on the Science and Nature album it’s a piece of perfection that deserves an airing and the crowd lap it up. Heading back to the early hits again, Carn’t Be Trusted starts and we all join in, even singing out the last line before Mark does.
The start of Solomon Bites The Worm chimes out and we all bellow out “MONDAY” as loud as we can as the atmosphere goes up a gear and the dancing is really taking hold. To calm it all down a bit Mark puts his guitar on once again and gives us the gentle Firefly from the final studio album A New Athens.
The band then give us a wonderful cover of Prince’s song I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man which is nothing if not bittersweet. Finally it’s the song that everyone has been waiting for and even though we get a slightly sarcastic speech from Mr Morriss about playing it sooo many times, we all shout out the lyrics to Slight Return. There was a bit confusion about the words to the second verse, but who actually got them wrong I’m not at liberty to say…
We’re almost at the end of the evening now and the final track is the lively After Hours. Two ladies appear from somewhere behind me and dance their cares away like Fred Astaire in the middle of the floor and look like they are having more fun than ever. It’s infectious, and there’s arms swaying and feet tapping and all around me everyone looks like they have had a fabulous time.
The boys leave the stage to thunderous applause, but not for too long as we have an encore to get through before we all get kicked out and the venue becomes a club. Back on stage, the band fire up again and give us the B side to Marblehead Johnson, The Simple Things which ends with a segue-way into Express Yourself by Madonna. The very last song of the evening is “the big song, with the little name”, the marvellous If. Hearing the crowd sing out the ‘Na Na Na’s’ in fine voice is a fitting way to end what has been a great night.
From talking to Adam about the reasons why The Bluetones decided to go back on the road, it’s very obvious to me that this tour is not about money or doing it for nostalgias sake, it’s about a group of guys who love playing together so much that they just want to do it all again. And the audience love it. I’ve seen many bands who have no stage presence or intimacy with their crowd, but not these guys. A connection to the fans is a very beautiful thing to watch, and from my vantage point at the back of the room I witnessed just that. And I get to do it all again on Thursday…
Catch the band on the remaining dates of the tour noted below.