Tuesday 15 November 2011

The Damned, Rock City, Nottingham

35th Anniversary Tour

The Damned downgraded to the Rescue Rooms last year but they’re back at the much bigger Rock City tonight to celebrate their 35th Anniversary. The occasion certainly seems to have pulled in the punters, the place isn’t sold out but there’s not a lot of space to be had.

The chap in front of me is doing his 571st Damned gig or something like that. I recall it was a very impressive number, he’s clearly their biggest fan as is proven by the fact practically everyone comes up to shake his hand. This is my third Damned gig but who's counting.

Up on stage first is a lass called Viv Albertine who hails from the same era. She used to be in the Slits you know. Isn’t there a saying ‘old punks don't they just go acoustic’. Perhaps. Although I do understand that Albertine plays as part of a band sometimes but tonight she brings just herself, a guitar, a good (and often dirty) sense of humour and some catchy little seemingly autobiographical songs to the party. Songs for which she pulls back on her punk years and everything in between for lyrical inspiration, if not for the musical side.

It also has to be said she's aged well, taking a twenty odd year break from the music industry probably helped, and there’s a steady stream of 40+ (or should that be 50+) blokes shuffling closer to the front to check her out. Damn their failing eyesight.

I wouldn’t say she gives the most inspiring of performances but she makes for a thoroughly entertaining support.

After a blast of 633 Squadron Captain Sensible strolls on stage, up to the mic and imparts a sort of opening speech. Sadly there is to be no ‘Happy Talk’ but instead we’re going to get to hear two records that changed the face of music... starting with ‘Damned Damned Damned’, the band’s debut from 1977.

I’ve never been sure about this playing a whole album business but then I’m also not keen on bands who just play the same songs year after year. So here goes... Enter a dapper Mr Vanian and cue ‘Neat Neat Neat’

The Damned re-enact their debut album in around 35 minutes with barely a pause between tracks. Delivering a rapid fire sequence of eleven simple, stripped back numbers, just as punk intended music to be played, with many old skool punks trying to remember how to pogo and probably wishing they’d left their lambswool pullovers at home. Yes I did say eleven, they skipped over the Rat Scabies penned 'Stab Yor Back' for reasons unknown. Perhaps reasons of a petty feuding nature perhaps... but no one’s actually saying for sure.

‘Is she still going out with me?’ asks the Captain, as is perhaps the new way before ‘New Rose’. ‘I hope so because she's working on the merch stand tonight’. So hello to Mrs Sensible.

The Captain is a laugh all night, introducing songs with increasingly more tenuous links as we go along. In fact they all seem to be having a ball. Monty the keyboard player is doing air guitar among other things, for want of something to do. He’s certainly not going to get much keyboard practice in on this album, so he hollers along instead. He’s so into it he’s bought the t-shirt.

It’s a shame when they complete the album and go off for a short break, having kept the crowd pretty much hanging an inch off the floor for the last half an hour, even those in the lambswool pullovers.

Less than ten minutes later we're in 1980 and its shades all round for ‘Wait For The Blackout’. The Damned haven’t actually been that prolific album wise in their 35 years. In that time they have produced just ten, ‘The Black Album’ was their fourth and it anything, they seemed even more in their element on this than on ‘Damned Damned Damned’. Certainly Monty was much happier, actually having some notes to play.

This is the album where they moved on from punk into a darker more gothic sound. It’s not as powerful of course; just simply compelling and with great songs such as ‘Lively Arts’, the Captain singing ‘Silly Kids Games’, ’Drinking About My Baby’, apparently they’re nearly all failed relationship songs, then ‘Hit or Miss’ get things lively again.

The band seem to having as much fun as we are. When a glass lands on the stage during ‘Sick of This and That’ and John the Roadie comes on to mop up, the guys block his exit. Eventually he escapes through Sensible’s legs.

The best though is still to come. ‘The History Of The World’ is simply superb and then there’s ‘Therapy’ which I wouldn’t have expected to steal the show but it may well have done. Though if anyone can make sense of the Captain’s story behind the song then they’re a better man than me.

Then there’s a dramatic closing ‘Curtain Call’, complete with impressive laser light show... at a ‘punk’ concert! The album was released as a double album back in the days of vinyl, with this one song making up the whole of side three.

It's so long that various band members wander off stage, nip to Sainsbury’s and then reappear seemingly at will. There’s just Captain and Monty alone onstage at one point, huddled over their keyboards, producing a wild electronic soundscape as laser warfare breaks out all around them. How very avant-garde. Very good though. It’s all good. The first album was as well of course but it's the ‘The Black Album’ that stands out the most tonight.

And there’s more.

They return asking for requests, which results in them playing part of Deep Purple's ‘Black Night’ for no obvious reason, amidst lots of messing about. Ten minutes later they decide to play 'Disco Man'.

Then they round proceedings off with three from 1979's ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’. ‘Love Song’ of course, ‘Anti-Pope’ and then 'Smash It Up' or if we prefer 'Happy Talk'. Decisions decisions.

After a bit of the latter, the former, with Mr Superfan on stage. Jonno, long time Damned fan and friend of the band. Turns out he's a bit of a local legend too.

The gig finally draws to a close a good ten minutes after the 11pm curfew. A pleasant evening.

Monday 14 November 2011

Yuck, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

I’m impressed with the service tonight at the not-so-intimate-anymore-since-its-refit Rescue Rooms as the staff move a chap in a wheelchair right to the front and barrier him in. For his own safety I imagine, in case it gets lively. I’ve also got a good spot but again we have an annoyingly back lit stage which makes photography difficult but I’ll have a good stab.

Moments later two ‘Movember’ supporting chaps, of course that could be their permanent look, and two others who look like they haven’t started shaving yet take the stage. This is ‘Fanclub’, without the 'teenage'.

They embark on a noisy and promising start but when the vocals start they don't quite back up the promising guitar work. Most of their stuff then descends into the standard indie fare and they actually seem most inspired on their slower numbers and when the second guitarist joins in with the vocals.

They’re a quiet lot, who don't attempt to get any banter going with the crowd and that’s to the detriment of the atmosphere. After a little under 25 minutes they’re done and we await the headliners.

At 8.45 something Japanese, according to Shazam, heralds the arrival of Yuck. Who are straight out of the blocks, no messing, and into the rather wonderful ‘Holing out’.

Yuck are three-fifths British and were formed by two ex-members of the defunct Cajun Dance Party, who I had a bit of a soft spot for. Those two, Daniel Blumberg and Max Bloom, flank Mariko Doi who, oddly for a bass player, gets centre stage. She hails from Hiroshima and also probably gets to choose the intro music.

Then there’s Jonny Rogoff from New Jersey, a man with big big hair who powers most of the songs along adeptly from behind his drum kit.

There are just four of them tonight. Daniel's younger sister Ilana has presumably been left at home to do her homework. Sadly this means the delightful ‘Georgia’ lacks Ilana’s vocals tonight and it suffers for it.

Daniel Blumberg reckons they stayed every night in Nottingham on their last tour to save money. Returning even from Glasgow... really? That saved money? Is that the tour when they didn’t even play Nottingham because they cancelled to appear on Later With Jools? Or was that the tour when they played to ten people at Stealth? Well according to Max Bloom it was ten, the reviews tend to suggest around thirty but perhaps they were counting staff, road crew and the support band.

Those two chat a bit while Doi barely speaks and instead concentrates on some great Kim Deal-esk thudding baselines to add to the boys fuzzing guitars. We’re sort of back in the early 90s territory here. Rogoff speaks only to enlighten us to the fact that this is the first time in three shows that they haven’t blow up the PA. Yet.

In fact everything hangs together sublimely, from the acoustic delight of 'Suicide Policemen' to the distortion drenched sound of 'Get Away' in a set drawn from their so far only album and a few inspired extras. Those include the sort of a double A side ‘Milkshake’ and a new track ‘Soothe Me’, both of which appear on a new deluxe edition of the album, along with b-sides and such, that is just out.

The vocals briefly swap to Max Bloom for the tremendous ‘Operation’ before they sort of amble rather than sprint to the line with the slower numbers ‘Stutter’ and the closing 'Rubber', the latter being bathed in a sea of feedback before they leave us.

Friday 28 October 2011

The Mission, Academy, Leeds

with special guests - Salvation and The Wonder Stuff

I’m feeling a bit retro at the moment, so The Mission’s 25th Anniversary Homecoming Show up in Leeds sounds ideal. I rush into the venue nice and early to see Salvation, another band of the same era and one not easily seen these days. According to the bands website they have played only two concerts since 1991. In 2004 at a Private Party, bizarrely in my home town of Nottingham, that I wasn’t invited to and in 2007 with The March Violets at the Violets own Leeds homecoming show.

They’re a little late coming on, so a chance to look around. I’m at the Leeds Academy, yes another one of those. Better known, back in the day, as the Town and Country Club and if you’re really old, before that the Coliseum. The place has been out of circulation for many a year, carrying on as a just nightclub, before it got Academy-ised in 2008. Now it’s being used again as a 2,300 gig venue, although with some of those up on the balcony.

Salvation are from Leeds and have had links with The Mission over the years, touring with them quite a bit back in the late 80's. I’m quickly transported back in time by ‘Diamond Child’, ‘She's an Island’, ‘All and More’ and ‘Thunderbird’. Cue jokes about Thunderbird wine. Is that stuff still available? All this accompanied by a gentle mosh for the attending over 40s.

Four of the five band members tonight date back to the heyday of the band, so it’s another reunion on stage this evening. To their credit they sound exactly the same as they did back then, right down to Danny Mass’s distinctive voice. The only thing that has changed is that they’ve got older. I mean we've all got a bit less hair these days but blimey. Danny had such a mop...

Then it’s great to hear the old favourite ‘Listen to Her Heart’ before they end a nine song set with ‘Why Lie?’

Being nicely gothed out after that, it seems a bit unfitting to have the Wonder Stuff up next, who don't really fit the blueprint. No offence boys... and girl. Still I've never been an objector, and I don't think I've ever seen them live. They are billed as ‘very special guests’ tonight, Wayne Hussey and Miles Hunt are the best of mates and have toured together, so it’s an understandable choice.

They start well with ‘Red Berry Joy Town’ with Hunt taking the stage with a bottle of wine in hand. Their set is good and the band lots of fun. Miles Hunt and co clearly love what they’re doing and that comes over from the stage. The downside is the nutters in the mosh pit that they attract. It gets exceedingly lively and this is just the warm up act.

They lose me in the middle a bit, going shall we say a bit baggy and folksy at times. Having a fiddle in the band I suppose makes this inevitable but at least it quells the violent moshing.

Which returns for a lively finish of the all the favourites:- ‘Size Of A Cow’, ‘Don't Let Me Down Gently’, ‘Give, Give, Give Me, More, More, More’ etc. Which causes Hunt to question whether he’ll be in trouble with Mr Hussey for tiring out his audience.

Near the end Erica, the violinist, disappears to change out of her party frock (shame) and returns dressed as a skeleton. Ready for Halloween I assume but still a bit odd.

Personally I think they were given too much stage time but the promoters clearly though two supports with a good fanbase were required to sell out the venue. The alternative would have been perhaps a smaller venue? Because at the end of the day it’s all about the Mission and they’re up next.

If you were a teenager in the eighties looking for an introduction to the world of live music in tight sweaty venues with all the trimmings that go with that you could not really have done better than discover the Mission. They seemed to be in Nottingham almost every other month throughout 1986-1988 and I had many a joyous evening at these fist pumping affairs. Time to dig out the old t-shirts, I’ve got a 1987 one but sadly not one going back to 1986.

I haven’t seen them live since 1990, when a move to bigger venues and the awful ‘Masque’ album tested my loyalty, as it did many others. The band itself started to implode at around the same time and that really should have been that but Wayne Hussey soldiered on with Mick Brown, the drummer, until they disbanded in 1993... before reforming a few years later and playing with differing line ups until finally calling it a day with a run of farewell shows at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2008.

Now it's the 25th anniversary, so there's money being waved around and money talks but Hussey has got original members Simon Hinkler and Craig Adams on board although sadly not Brown. Still it’s got me on board and what better place to rekindle the faith after 21 years than in Leeds where it all started.

What's more they seem to be up for it and it’s an absolutely fantastic opening, as the ‘Dambusters’ theme draws to a close and they open with the slow building, brooding ‘Beyond the Pale’ from their second album, ‘Children’. I think I'm the only one who would choose that as their favourite album. It feels like a proper album, whereas their first album was simply an accumulation of the stuff they’d been playing live. ‘Children’ had the feel that they’d actually sat down and written it. Sadly they only play two from it tonight.

Next up ‘Hands Across The Ocean’, which seems a bit out of place, taken from the ‘Grains of Sand’ album which was basically an album of tracks that hadn’t made the cut for the previous ‘Carved In Sand’ offering.

Thereafter, it’s pretty much early Mission classics all the way. ‘Serpent’s Kiss’ ignites the floor before ‘Naked & Savage’ calms things down again, a touch.

For saying they’ve had less than a month to rehearse and a new drummer (who was excellent), the band sound great, looked relaxed and the old magic was there to see.

‘Garden of Delight’ was as good as ever but I’ve never been a fan of the band playing ‘Severina’ without Julianne Regan who contributed so much vocally to the original.

Hussey reminisces about Leeds and not very fondly. He recalls shooting a video here, in the old Town & Country Club but also of his house being burgled every time he went off on tour. Hussey actually hails from Bristol, Hickler as it turns out is from Sheffield, leaving Adams as the only Leeds native but never mind. Great to see Hinkler really getting into the part, complete with a hat again, nice touch.

I forget how good ‘Butterfly on a Wheel’ sounds but remember how the appeal of ‘Stay With Me’ passed me by and still does. Before which Adams is persuaded to do the ‘Vigilante Man’, which I’ve never heard him do before. The guy really looks like he’s having a ball.

It good to hear ‘Wake’ included with Hinkler at the piano, a very early classic that always used to steal the shows and does again tonight.

Then it’s a not so satisfying ‘Wasteland’ remix followed by a thumpingly good ‘Crystal Ocean’ and finally ‘Deliverance’ which provides quite an ending. Adams and Hinkler leave the stage but Hussey remains to lead the audience in the singing. Then he goes too, leaving just Mike Kelly, the man drafted in to play the drums and thereby halving the average age of the band at the same time. He stays to the end, with the crowd still singing. Very effective and effecting.

After just twelve tracks their gone. As I’ve said, too many support bands. While we await the encore I ponder the fact that many of the audience still look good in basques etc well into their 40s and as for the women...

Hussey returns to play ‘Like A Child Again’ solo, a track that comes from that much maligned ‘Masque’ album and it sounds infinitely better acoustic than on record. With its ‘Like a Hurricane’ reference it leads into, what else but, ‘Like a Hurricane’. Then it’s a soaring (you have to use that word) ‘Tower of Strength’.

Then they’re gone again, returning for the classic that is ‘Blood Brother’ and the traditional cover of Iggy’s ‘1969’.

In all, a very good night. The only criticism would be that it was felt just like a Mission concert from twenty years ago, rather than an anniversary one... well, perhaps that’s no criticism at all.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The Horrors, Rock City, Nottingham

It’s all happening a bit early tonight, at 8.40 Southend's The Horrors quietly shuffle on to the stage at Rock City unaccompanied by any backing music. This is after a venue change from what was supposed to be an intimate Rescue Rooms night, due to them selling that out rather quicker than expected and it’s not far off being a sell out for a second time in the bigger venue.

Then we’re quickly in to ‘Changing The Rain’ off their new album ‘Skying’. It’s a rather ponderous track and sounds ever more so live but from there, things soon pick up. ‘Who Can Say’ from their award winning ‘Primary Colours’ album is much better. Livelier. The same album also probably producing the highlight of the set, a terrific ‘Scarlet Fields’. The new stuff is less impressive but ‘I Can See Through You’, ‘Still Life’ and particularly ‘Endless Blue’ are decent enough but lack the class and the punch of their predecessors.

Throughout, the band beaver away industriously behind a fog of thick smoke and assorted coloured lights. Faris Badwan says little, although he does mumble a few things that we don’t quite catch and introduces some of the tracks.

Then at 9.20 they’re done. 40 minutes and 8 tracks after hitting the stage they’re gone. Perhaps they were just the support... Actually, it’s really a bit pathetic; three albums to pick from and they can only muster the energy for eight tracks. If I’m making excuses for them, then maybe, just maybe, it’s because he’s been suffering from an infected throat, which caused the band to cancel a couple of the dates on this tour, but his voice seems fine tonight, so maybe not. Still, it was good while it lasted.

There then follows a longer than necessary break before the encore and I can't imagine why they need a lie down after that brief performance. That’s assuming we’re going to get an encore. Ah, I see we are.

The encore showcases what was great about ‘Primary Colours’. ‘Mirror's Image’ and ‘Three Decades’ back to back are a potent combination and go some way to alleviating the disappointment of the brevity of the main set, but then it all finishes as ponderously as it started. The band busily jam away to ‘Moving Further Away’, which to me is all intro and no song. It’s musical Horlicks. I'll sleep well. It’s also almost as long as the main set. Midway through it, as nothing much is happening on stage, someone chucks a full pint at the bass player and then Faris himself lights a firework centre stage but I’m still nodding off.

It sounds like a longer ‘Whole New Way’, one of the many tracks they've now discarded. There’s nothing from ‘Strange House’ tonight, unsurprising but still a shame. It would have been a test of how good they are to see how well they could weave say ‘Gloves’ or ‘Count In Fives’ in to the set. Tracks that would fit, at a shove.

The length of the encore means it’s just over an hours toil for the lads. Nice work if you can get it. Eleven tracks in all. On the ‘Primary Colours’ tour in 2010 they played fourteen songs when they came to Nottingham. So they're regressing, shaving three songs off their set list. So don’t arrive late when they next tour... or you’ll miss ‘em totally.

Somebody somewhere is giving them bad career advice. The mumbles from the crowd heading for the exits is mixed at best. It was very good in the middle though, while it lasted.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

The Subways, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Welsh five piece Straight Lines seem to be going down well with the crowd as, running a bit late, I push my way to the front at the Rescue Rooms. They also seem quite well known. There’s plenty of head bopping and even singing along. I’ve not come across them before and their punk/pop/hardcore blended sound could be described as sounding like everyone else’s but it wouldn’t be fair to say that on the few numbers I heard, so I won’t say it, I’ll just think it.

So to another band who could be accused of sounding like everyone else ‘The Subways’. I haven’t seen them for a while and I need to top up this year’s gig list, which is rather low, so I thought why not. They were rather good on the NME stage at the Leeds Fest in 2005, blimey that was a while ago. I saw them at Rock City a year later as well but now they’ve been downgraded a little to the Rescue Rooms. You may say the real reason I'm here is to get some photos of Charlotte Cooper, now a veteran at 25, but you’d be wrong of course.

Some things have changed. Rock City’s little brother ‘The Rig’ is now the ‘Black Cherry Lounge’ and the stage at Rescue Rooms now goes all the way across. Bigger. Tidier. Better? In a summer refit the steps have gone, the bar moved and balcony access is now no longer from some secret door at the back of the main bar where you had to utter ‘Phil sent me’ or something, to get in. The place now finally looks like a gig venue rather than an afterthought. They’ve even got real ale on the bar for crikes sake, heady days indeed.

So some things change but in a way it’s comforting that The Subways haven’t. The band bounce on stage to Gene Wilder’s ‘Pure Imagination’, then bounce their way through early single ‘Oh Yeah’ and basically don’t stop bouncing throughout the night.

Songs from their heavier second album ‘All or Nothing’ rub shoulders with the poppier sound of their debut ‘Young For Eternity’, in pretty much an even split of tracks between the two. In between they mix in a some tracks from their new album, released just yesterday, the style of which seems to fall somewhere between the two.

‘Young for Eternity’, ‘Obsession’, ‘Alright’ the songs tumbles out one after another, each one igniting the crowd and setting off a fresh wave of bouncing by crowd and band alike. It’s nice to see a crowd so up for a gig and a band too. The threesome give it their all from start to finish.

Isn’t there something great about threesomes, I mean three pieces. Concise, raw... limited yet eminently appealing.

Vocalist Billy Lunn tells us ‘Mary’ is about his mum and then goes off for another charge around the stage, passing bassist Charlotte Cooper on the way as she charges in the opposite direction, head banging, hair tossing with her bass guitar.

Billy's younger brother Josh bangs the drums. Legend has it that he was such a wild kid at home that his parents got him a drum kit to channel that wildness. I think he’s still got that drum kit because it’s kind of a mini set. The type they used so sell in the toy section in the back of the Argos catalogue, perhaps.

The new album ‘Money and Celebrity’, takes a pop at celebrity culture with tracks like current single ‘We Don't Need Money to Have a Good Time’ which provokes another a surge of energy from the crowd. As does the older ‘Shake! Shake!’ which goes down a storm with lots of, well, shaking.

The best moments are the older ones though, the slow building ‘I Want to Hear What You Have Got to Say’ being rolled into ‘Rock and Roll Queen’ was a clear highlight.

Billy and Charlotte stand some distance apart tonight on the somehow bigger Rescue Rooms stage, making it difficult to photograph them together. I’m sure this is the norm and not indicative of their eight year romance that ended sometime ago in marriage, to other people. Their relationship now appears cordial, friendly but also businesslike and lacks some of the on stage chemistry of before.

I was particularly surprised to hear that Billy had recently got hitched because he’s cheating on his missus already, tonight Billy is truly, madly, deeply in love with his audience. He urges them to get a ‘circle pit’ going to ‘Turnaround’. After a few false starts, due possibly to a lack of understanding (honestly, youngsters today), they finally get it going. Then after a resounding ‘With You’ they’re off without a word, which I thought was a tad rude.

They return for an encore that opens with ‘Kalifornia’ and continues into ‘At 1 am’ at which point something comes whizzing past my ear and lands on the stage. A bra, a very large bra, in fact a scarily large one. So large that I daren’t turnaround to speculate on the owner of such a huge garment. Clearly our freshly married man isn’t impressed either, as he kicks it into touch. Instead he strips off his own top and dives headlong into the crowd. They catch him and carry him aloft as the band close with ‘It's a Party’, a song about how awesome a party they have on tour.

Then down goes the Argos drum kit, in that most un-rock n roll of rock n roll gestures and the lights go up.

The Subways remain mostly unvaried but a more upbeat rock band you could not wish for. They also put more energy into tonight’s performance than a lot of bands put into a lifetime of touring. They’re a band clearly enjoying what they do. Though I still think they may need to move on a touch to survive, if they get time amongst married life of course.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

The Bluetones, Academy 2, Sheffield

Tonight we’re in the intimate surroundings of the upstairs room at the Sheffield Academy, complete with a reassuringly sticky floor, as is so often the case in these places. It’s nicely full which is good to see.

Now I must confess that I’m coming a bit late to the party on this one. So late in fact that everyone else has got their coat and is making for the exit, including the band, who announced in March that this will be their farewell tour.

They are of course ‘The Bluetones’, purveyors of thirteen Top 40 singles and three Top 10 albums. All some time ago. Yet they have continued to tour to a loyal but sadly decreasing fan base. I’ve been remiss in never seeing them prior to Splendour this year, despite being an admirer of their early successes. I feel that tonight many others are returning after too many years of absence and if you neglect something it falls apart. Which appears to have been the cause of the demise of the Bluetones. Even the playing the classic album trick, with ‘Expecting To Fly’ didn't do the job. So, now as a parting gesture, we get this final tour.

First though we have Pugwash, shiver me timbers, but they have little in common with the cartoon Captain. I bet they’ve heard that sort of pun a few times but if you pick the name, you get the comments.

They fit the bill as a warm up act for their comedy element as well as for their music. They’re entertaining and easily strike up a good banter with the crowd. The Lindisfarne loving (apparently) Irish outfit have a bit of Liverpudlian thrown in, on bass guitar, actually sound incredibly like Elbow at times. Well until they dig back into their catalogue where the older stuff is more rocking. Lead man Thomas Walsh, for it his baby and has been since 1999, even seems to be going for the Guy Garvey look, e.g. physique or perhaps he had it first.

He’s also not adverse to a bit of name dropping, e.g. ‘Ben (Folds) popped in to do keyboards on this one’ or ‘here’s one I recorded with Neil Hannon’, when apparently they toured as ‘The Duckworth Lewis Method’. Still they’re good, affable and talented not that I’d buy any of their records. I’m just not sure when the right mood to play them would be.

Half an hour later, “breaking up is so very hard to do...” blares through the PA, “just tell me that we're through...”. The Walker Brothers playing “Make It Easy On Yourself”, this as Mark Morriss tells us is ‘the beginning of the end’. Cue boos. He scowls at the booing, we’re not here to boo, we’re here to celebrate the career of the Bluetones.

They open with a couple of album tracks, ‘Unpainted Arizona’ and ‘Zorro’ or as Mark describes them an ‘opening of openings’ as he adds ‘Surrendered’, the opening track from album number five. Odd idea but clever. So let’s spoil it, be pedantic and point out that ‘Unpainted Arizona’ was track number two on ‘Return to the Last Chance Saloon’.

From here the pace is gradually hiked, starting with ‘Fast Boy’, who we’re told is the man who once sold him weed. There after we get the same professional and polished performance that seduced me (belatedly) at Splendour.

Mark Morriss’s vocals blend with the intricate guitar playing of Adam Devlin, together with drummer Ed Chesters and Mark’s younger brother Scott on bass.

Mark is always entertaining to listen to, even when commenting on Sheffield’s road system. Now after sixteen years of coming here on tour, they’ve finally finished it, as the band split up. This acts as his intro to the automobile inspired car ‘Autophilia or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Car’. Unfortunately the parking charges seem to be paying for those improvements. Ouch, as my wallet would say later.

‘Cut Some Rug’ needed no introduction and didn’t get one but Richard Payne, the fifth member for nearly four years did, as he comes over from Australia to rejoin them for this final tour and to treat us to keyboard on the like of ‘Tiger Lily’ from their third album ‘Science & Nature’.

They seamlessly move from one of their oldest tracks, the excellent ‘Bluetonic’ to one of the newest, last year’s ‘A New Athens’ from the album of the same name, with ease and without dropping the quality. Then we’re into a run of singles ‘After Hours’, ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’, ‘Solomon Bites The Worm’, ‘Marblehead Johnson’ from back when, he says, they were fashionable.

So what words of wisdom have the boys got to offer after sixteen years...? ‘We've learnt many things after years on the road so here’s another song about drinking...’ Cue ‘Carry Me Home’, a recent single that shows that they still had it to the end. Then moving swiftly from ‘a single that didn't sell enough to one that sold too many’ ‘Slight Return’, a track they’ve struggled to throw off the shackles from ever since and Mark always seemed slightly irked that they have to play it.

Then closing with possibly the band’s favourite and mine too, ‘Never Going Nowhere’ and then they go off, promising to return swiftly but in the interim leaving us with an empty stage so that we can contemplate what it will be like from now on, forever. No more Bluetones.

The mandolin, ‘hard to play and look cool’ comes out with one of those blowy keyboard things, A Melodica is it? for a quirky encore of ‘Slack Jaw’ and ‘Vostock of Love’ the B-side to ‘Autophilia’, and that they claim is ‘one of the best we've done’. Not totally convinced about that. Then it’s the traditional close of ‘If...’ before they go off for a second time, leaving us to wonder if that really is it.

Not if the crowd have anything to do with it, impressively picking up the ‘na na na na na’ from ‘If...’ and hurling them back at the empty stage.

So the band return again, in dressing gowns and clutching bunches of flowers to play something that has ‘always been requested of them’... seriously? A hilariously light-hearted but still excellent cover of KC and The Sunshine Band’s ‘Give It Up’. An ‘I was there’ moment I think.

They finally close the night quietly and with little fuss courtesy of an obscure moment from their debut ‘Expecting to Fly’. The track called ‘A Parting Gesture’ is an appropriate way to go. Then with four final final words from Mark, "We were The Bluetones...", they are gone... forever. Well, call me a sceptic, until they reform of course.

The Bluetones Farewell Tour runs until the 27th September, catch them while you can.