Record Overplayed
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The Bluetones and M.A.S.S | Middlesbrough Cornerhouse and Northumbria Uni | April 2003

Boys in Blue Make Their Mark

Gig Review and Photos by Dawn

When you’re impatiently awaiting the arrival of the headline act, it’s always a relief when the support band are entertaining – and M.A.S.S certainly fit that description! At both venues, we’re treated to thirty minutes’ marvellously melodic rock ‘n’ roll courtesy of feisty blonde frontwoman Justine and her four male companions. Their two singles receive a few cheers of recognition from both crowds and, after showcasing some superb songs and with such sizzling stage presence, they must surely have gained several more fans in the North East.

Unsurprisingly, The Bluetones don’t disappoint either, returning to charm the Northern crowds in their own inimitable fashion. The Blur-versus-Oasis days of Britpop may now be a distant memory, but Mark Morriss and his boys are still knocking out irresistible pop anthems demonstrating exactly how they’ve survived for this long, and the Middlesbrough gig is certainly eventful. Such is the band’s impact on the tiny stage that dust and plaster repeatedly (and worryingly!) fall from the ceiling onto Mark’s head, while encore track Blood Bubble is interrupted by a power cut!

The marathon 50 date tour coincides with the release of fantastic forthcoming album Luxembourg; hence the setlist comprises nine of its ten tracks, with a handful of old favourites to keep the die-hard fans happy.

Onstage, the ‘Tones are like chalk and cheese: While guitarists Adam and Scott ensure no effort goes to waste, ever-grinning drummer Eds always looks to be having the time of his life. Meanwhile, newest recruit Paul makes a valiant attempt to steal the limelight, clearly enjoying every second of his energetic and enthusiastic performance on keyboards, tambourine and backing vocals. As usual, though, it’s the ever-jovial, charismatic Mark who is truly the star of the Bluetones show with his distinctive, fragile vocals, between-song banter and infamous dancing. Even with the hindrance of his recently acquired guitar around his neck, he still manages to groove across the stage in the amusing way that only he can.

The new material proves popular and, with the additional guitar work courtesy of Mark, has a harder edge than previous albums, but the combination of three guitars and Paul and Scott’s backing vocals means that, despite the new, rockier sound, The Bluetones have never sounded more harmonious or melodic. Liquid Lips has an instantly infectious, singalong chorus behind its driving guitar riff, while the gorgeous Never Going Nowhere is widely – and perhaps rightly – touted as a summer anthem and ‘the best song The Bluetones have ever written’.

Meanwhile, classic tunes If and Keep The Home Fires Burning ensure that the crowds get their chance to join in on vocal duties, while the award for line of the night in Newcastle goes to Mark for his response to the few fans who, irritatingly, persist in shouting requests for Slight Return all evening. The boys’ biggest hit to date doesn’t feature in either night’s setlist, leaving Mark to give the tongue-in-cheek reply, ‘I’m sorry, I think you’re mistaking us for the jukebox!’

Thankfully, such fans are in the minority as the band’s vibrant energy and enchanting charm prove once again to be the perfect tonic to leave the capacity crowds feeling well and truly blue – and loving it!

Huge thanks to Maureen McCann and Dom Crawshaw for Middlesbrough and to the ever-lovely Mark Morriss for inviting us to Newcastle. Luxembourg is released 12/5/03 – see www.Bluetones.info for more details.

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