Friday, July 07, 2023

Blossoms at Castlefield, what a night

Neil, Joe Donovan (Blossoms drummer) and me

I took the eldest of my five sons to his first gig in 2016. I say took, I dropped him off outside and was waiting outside the venue in Liverpool with his younger brothers when he emerged three hours later.

He’d been to see Blossoms, Stockport’s finest and now darlings of the Glastonbury stage.

In that brief moment I was aware of their talent, but also of their moment.

There was a feeling as the kids streamed out of Oasis 1995 about them. Or Arctic Monkeys 2005. This was his band. The band that him and his mates were flocking to see. Scanning the forthcoming festivals for whether they’d be there. Snapping up tickets.

I was not about to do something stupid like say I liked them, or place them in a historical arc. It was important I let him love them for what they were; five lads from the neighbourhood, who you’d see around and about, and who were so utterly relatable, and created great tunes.

So I stepped away.

Not long after I was reading my go-to menswear journal, stuffed with archly observed cultural references. In there I stumbled across more love and appreciation of Blossoms. 

Neil Summers’ writing and interviews (for it was he) provided a frame of appreciation, and so too did the added knowledge that they’d benefited from the musical alchemy of James Skelly from The Coral in his producer mode.

And yes, those tunes. The opening bars of Charlemagne, the tight wall of sound of There’s a Reason Why. 

The cross currents with Stranger Things and a snappy pitch perfect video melding the two together into Stockport Things. Genius.

Their contribution to keeping us entertained during the morbid lockdown dates was nothing short of heroic. Artfully composed musical vignettes, using improvisation and deep reserves of creativity.

But still I kept it to myself, as the next tier of sons also got a Blossoms bug.

Apart from seeing them perform on Piccadilly station concourse for BBC Children in Need in 2018 I hadn’t seen them live until last week.

I don’t say this lightly, but their performance at Manchester’s summer festival in Castlefield Bowl was as good as anything I’ve seen.

After the delightful Glastonbury sojourn with Rick Astley singing The Smiths, this was a set for the true believers. Not a single cover, save for the rousing audience rendition of Half A World Away, theme tune for TV’s The Royle Family, also pure Stockport.

The standard of production, musicianship, posture and staging was pitch perfect. The centre of gravity of the band shifted throughout the set. The harmony and balance of the end product always delivering songs in reliably crystal form, or sometimes altering the opening, or chorus, in ways that reminded you of the magic of a live show.

None of this happens by accident. This is a band who are tight. They know they can play, but the real skill is they also know how to play well together and who their audience are.

It was also a crowd I felt comfortable in. A Greater Manchester collective, as if a fire alarm had gone off in Heaton Moor. All life was here.

I have theories and ideas of where this band might go next. What direction their sound could take. Every single scenario is an exciting one. In a world where artists make their living from performing live, it is indeed a fine thing to be a great live band.

From when my lad nervously stepped in to Liverpool’s O2, way back when, to now, that’s what Blossoms are: a truly great live band.


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