Blossoms + Touts | Review
Custom House Square, Belfast • Tuesday 22 August ’17
By Neil Trelford • Photography: Conor Kerr
So as if the night wasn’t as damp enough, the headliners announced an unwelcome headline! With the stage set, the crowd buoyant having ridden tonight’s storm and with ten minutes to stage time, a public announcement is made. The sold out, five and a half thousand strong crowd are stunned into silence as the announcer delivers every true fans nightmare, news that the gig is cancelled. During that momentary silence many questioned themselves, was it a wind up by their idols, had they heard it right?
But the repeat of the same announcement a minute later hammered home the reality of the situation, the band could not perform due to a band member taking ill. And in that instant the adoration and compassion for their musical heroes and is replaced with rain drenched and beer soaked angst. Angry booing was the chorus as a barrage of missiles rained down on the weather protected stage.
After much ado, the grumbling crowd meandered its way out into the sodden city streets. Awfully disappointing for those that only turned up to see Kasabian but what a delight for those that witnessed a new dawning of Northern Ireland rock in the name of Touts and those that sung along to the melodic indie hits of Blossoms.
So with Northern Ireland’s weather as unpredictable as its political state, the evening forecast was for a fresh local breeze with some showers. But first on tonight’s bill, Derry’s rising stars Touts would deliver one heck of a storm.
Welcome to Belfast; Welcome to Derry; Welcome to the new 1977; Welcome to the here and now of 2017 teenage angst! The early crowd were ignited by the thunderous opening of original tracks from their Sickening And Deplorable E.P. And when guitarist, Luke McLaughlin, announced ‘Saturday Night Scumbag’ a travelling Derry contingent blitzed the front rows into a frenzied mosh pit.
Drummer Jason Feenan dictated the rapid pace with the craft and tenacity not dissimilar to the early Dead Kennedy’s drummer Bruce Slesinger. Indeed a few thuds reminiscent of ‘California Uber Alles’ are woven seamlessly into this fan favourite.
Singer Matthew Crossan may unwittingly claim he can’t sing but that is so far from the truth. In tandem with his raucous guitar playing he delivers impeccable edgy vocals. He has his own unique tremulous voice with hints of a young cutting edge Paul Weller and the silvery horizons of a bright adolescent Feargal Sharkey. He has the look of a young Weller too, donning a smart Fred Perry Polo, grey straight leg trouser and a pair of two-tone creepers.
As he provocatively delivers ‘Bomb Scare’ the crowd goes wild again. This band is raw, energetic but so musically tight. They power their way into the crescendo of the set with ‘No Name’ and ‘Micky’ before blistering into the penultimate and somewhat confrontational song ‘Political People’.
Gearing up for their own UK headline tour in September / October and massive respect slots on Paul Weller’s Irish shows in 2018, Matthew and Luke join vocals and lead into a chaotically triumphant version of Van Morrison’s ‘Gloria’.
They leave their loyal Derry following zapped and exit the stage having infected the streets of Belfast with its new era of punk rock. My word, Reading and Leeds Festivals this weekend are in for a Sickening And Deplorable treat.
So with the emerging crowd rain-swept but not dampened, new indie heroes Blossoms would calm the storm with their melodious modern hits. The Stockport lads still fresh from a busy 2017 tour and riding high on their late 2016 chart topping album success with their self-titled debut album, they immediately wooed the crowd with a tentative smack on the lips with ‘At Most A Kiss’.
Lead singer, Tom Ogden is masterful in his crowd caressing and with their first single ‘Blow’ he has their devotees swaying harmoniously. From here through ‘Get Away’ and up to their third single release ‘Blown Rose’, Ogden coerces the crowd to show their appreciation for each member of the band. The fans echo the frontman’s admiration for Joe Donovan on drums, Charlie Salt on bass, Josh Dewhurst on guitar and Myles Kellock on keyboards.
Collectively they have an image indicative of Canadian progressive rock band Rush from their 1975 era of Caress of Steel but the musical swagger of Nineties Indie giants Suede and James. And it’s in the slow down break up themed ‘My Favourite Room’ that a twinge of Brett Anderson’s wide ranging voice resonates and pulls on the crowd’s heartstrings. But Ogden doesn’t let his followers dwell in pity and an uplifting version of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ is mixed into a thousand voices sing-along.
With fluttering hearts the crowd are carried through to the finale passing ‘Deep Grass’ which is the final song from the debut album and met with the first song of that same album ‘Charlemange’. This is Blossoms anthem and they leave the crowd with a warm glow despite the song’s closing lyrics about being left cold.
Neil Trelford (Author of The Youth Club)