The Bluetones – Norwich Waterfront – 23 November 2019
I’m not sure what you would expect from a reformed Britpop band in their late forties who are touring their third album, originally released almost twenty years ago. Serious nostalgia?
A respectful nod to the old days? Maybe. You probably wouldn’t expect lab coats. Or the singer to have a go at the drums. Or some viral phone footage to be created. All of these things happen in two hours of live perfection which somehow seems to pass by in minutes.
The Bluetones, joined on this tour by their occasional fifth member Richard Payne, are donning white lab coats in a nod to the album’s title, “Science and Nature”. For reasons unexplained, they are also wearing brightly coloured visors. They burst into album opener Zorrro with gusto, leading seamlessly into the rest of the album. Three songs in, singer Mark Morriss’s visor is placed on the head of a lucky member of the front row.
Science and Nature may not have been The Bluetones’ most commercially successful album, or the liveliest, but it makes for an interesting showcase of their talents in front of a live audience. From the shuffle of “Mudslide” to the country and western style “One Speed Gearbox”, straight into the energetic instrumental “Blood Bubble”, we first reach the comedy “Autophilia” and then finally arrive at the album’s masterpiece, “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” Every song delivered flawlessly with Mark’s unmistakable vocals, Adam Devlin’s guitar wizardry and Eds Chesters’ energetic drums. Not forgetting Richard’s accordion on “Slack Jaw”. We even get treated to bassist Scott Morriss’s famed dance, including a high kick, during “Emily’s Pine”.
With the album now completed, we are informed that a twelve minute interval will follow. Sixteen minutes later, the band re-emerge (now in their usual attire) to play a second set, comprised of their singles that graced the “hit parade” with their presence, from number 2 (“the one your mum knows”) to number 40 (Never Going Nowhere). What the chart positions don’t illustrate is that every one of these songs is a belter. Including an intended single that never quite made it, “Freeze Dried Pop”, a little treat for the die-hards.
Late in the set, Mark ambles up to the drum kit, and, sending Eds on his way, insists on having a go at drumming. After he has established which way up the drumsticks should go, the attention of the crowd falls on Eds, who plays guitar with Scott to the cheers of the crowd. Richard starts playing the intro to Van Halen’s Jump and Eds even has a go at singing. It is quite surreal.
As he wraps up Slight Return, Mark gestures to someone in the crowd to pass him her phone. He then wanders around the stage filming the other band members as they play the outro, before filming himself giving a thumbs up, and returning the phone. 48 hours later, this video has been viewed over 10,000 times on Twitter.
The finale, as always, is “If…” and the appreciative crowd responds with energy for the rousing “na-na-na-nah” refrain at the end. After an almost two hour set, you could forgive them for sounding tired, but they all still sound note perfect. They are at the top of their game, 25 years after they started playing. And long may it continue. There are hints about new material and suggestions of another tour next year. Norwich will be a lucky city when the Bluetones make their next slight return.
 Ummm… okay, that was me 😊