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The Bluetones – Concert Review – The Liquid Room – Edinburgh – April 25, 2016

“Some bands split up because of musical differences,” says The Bluetones’ Mark Morriss.
“We had musical differences with the audience,” he adds, halfway through the band’s ‘reunion phase two’ gig at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room.
The Bluetones split in 2011 after their last album, A New Athens, failed to make the top 200 but it always seemed like a reluctant departure.

The band had dutifully produced charming and well crafted albums every three years or so since their platinum selling breakthrough album Expecting To Fly in 1996, but with ever diminishing returns.

With ETF celebrating its 20th anniversary the band dutifully reformed for a series of gigs last year, which were so well received that they hit the road again this spring.

Rather than bask in the glory of that glorious debut album, The Bluetones seem determined to prove themselves and their extended back catalogue again to an audience that had rather taken them for granted.

Slight Return, their biggest hit single, was churned out near the end with all of the enthusiasm of a toilet attendant going through the motions.

Bluetonic, its successor and predecessor (Slight Return was re-issued in 1996 after failing to chart the previous year), was more well received by both band and audience.

Now in their mid-40s, the band look like they’ve still got plenty of good years ahead of them if the audience would only give them a chance, with only Adam Devlin threatening to grow into the fat suit they wore in the video for post-ETF standalone single Marblehead Johnson.

Although a little thicker in the waste, his riffs are even fatter and he remains one of the greatest guitarists of the Britpop generation.

Solomon Bites The Worm, from the distortion heavy second album, still rocks hard and its world-weary tale of a whole life lived in just a week has taken on new irony from a band that had apparently run its course and is now enjoying a precarious rebirth.

“Here’s a song we wrote when no one was paying attention,” says Morriss as they launch into Firefly from A New Athens, clearly bitter that a track that’s as good as anything on ETF failed to capture the public imagination.

“And one for the purists,” he says on encore track The Simple Things, B-side to Marblehead Johnson and arguably one of their greatest songs from a pre-iTunes era when bands were forced to throw away top tunes at the back end of four track CD singles to make up the numbers, with scant regard for the day when the well might run dry (much like Oasis did in their prolific early years).

Sadly, there appeared to be tickets on the door at the 650 capacity Liquid Room, suggesting The Bluetones are at risk of exhausting their “limited edition” reunion good will.

They’re still a top live act, though, and some new music could fill a niche in an increasingly fragmented music scene where chart hits are becoming less important (creatively, at least, although I doubt it pays the bills).

Set closer If… sends the crowd home happy, with its Hey Jude style “na na na” outro an easy singalong after two hours supping two pint pitchers.

Setlist

Talking To Clarry

Are You Blue Or Are You Blind?

Cut Some Rug

Mudslide

The Fountainhead

Marblehead Johnson

Keep The Home Fires Burning

Sleazy Bed Track

Bluetonic

Tiger Lily

Firefly

Fast Boy

Solomon Bites The Worm

Carnt Be Trusted

Slight Return

After Hours

The Simple Things

If…

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