The Bluetones at ULU

7th March 2009 – 12.53 pm

Blue emergency service-style lights start flashing on the stage, The Prodigy's Poison is playing on the PA system and The Bluetones walk out to rapturous applause. If I didn't know any better I'd think it was 1995. But even though there is someone wearing a Suede t-shirt in the audience something's not quite right. Everyone is in their mid-30s and there are a startling number of beards. But it turns out to be okay, because the same is true of the band.

The Bluetones are at the ULU for a special gig, to play their debut album, Expecting to Fly in its entirety. To make it an even more emotional affair the band has a full chorus for the first part of the set, as what sounds like the whole audience sings along with every word to the album, from Talking to Clarry to Time and Again. It is not just the huge hit singles that gets everyone singing and bouncing along, even forgotten favourites like The Fountainhead and Putting Out Fires provoke a huge response. 'Thanks for your enthusiasm', singer Mark Morriss says at one point, with his charmingly disarming grin, 'it's quite whelming'.

Morriss also shares a secret about the band's influences, trying to explain why watching lots of TV means Carn't Be Trusted sounds a bit like the theme to The Sweeney. As if we don't believe him he sings the theme over the introduction to the song and it is uncannily similar. Then comes the signature chord, something the band always hoped to achieve, the D-major that strummed in a certain way is unmistakable as belonging to anyone but The Bluetones as perennial crowd-pleaser Slight Return begins.

Finishing the first part of the set with Time and Again, the final track of the album and set-closer back in the day, The Bluetones take a short interval. They are soon back to play a second half, consisting of more songs from the same era and a few they simply like playing. Marblehead Johnson, Colorado Beetle and Are You Blue, Or Are You Blind? all sound as fresh played today as they did over a decade ago, a reminder of how powerful a force The Bluetones were in the early Britpop scene.

Early in the set Mark Morriss introduces Cut Some Rug as 'another one of our many hits', reflecting on where it all went wrong. As everyone in the venue triumphantly sings along to the infectiously catchy 'na na na's of set finale If... you have to share Mark's wonder. 'The charts got smaller' he opines, and he must be right. The Bluetones continue to craft pure pop hits and even if The Kids aren't listening tonight's gig proves that the band will always have an audience.

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