Monday, December 13, 2010

The Bluetones + Married To The Sea live at Norwich Waterfront 12/12/10

Ah the Waterfront in Norwich, I’ve been seeing bands here for nearly twenty years and every time I walk through the doors I’m immediately filled with an odd sense of excited nostalgia.  My enjoyment of the first act ‘Married To The Sea’ reminded me that one of the things I really love about The Waterfront is that it’s the exact right size venue to showcase new bands.

Married To The Sea (MTTS to friends) played a sort of thoughtful bouncy slightly noodling indie.  ‘Indie’ has become something of a dirty word of late but I can’t think of a better description for MTTS – they were accessible but alternative, poppy but innovative.  They had a nice banter around with the crowd (including I think the first reference to American sitcom ‘The Middle’ that I’ve ever seen on stage) and surprised us all by brandishing an accordion for a few numbers.  All in all very enjoyable, and probably one of the most appropriate support acts for The Bluetones I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen The Bluetones many times!)

Having seen The Bluetones at least once a year for god knows how many years it always feels a bit like watching old mates turn up when they amble onto the stage, but not in a creepy stalker type way, more in a ‘distant cousin that you only bump into at family occasions’ type way (only with better music and less social awkwardness).  Singer Mark Morris seemed a little distant and unsure for the first few numbers tonight, that could be because his band were brave enough to start a set with a new song, or (far more likely) he was scoping the room, scanning the horizon, getting a feel for the crowd and many other clichés beside.

Playing a nice mix of songs from their considerable back catalogue there was something for everyone in what was a pleasingly mixed room age-wise.  Last night The Bluetones were ably aurally augmented by a big haired lad called Andy tinkling the ivories, which gave them the opportunity to unleash a few tracks that I haven’t heard for years, most notably (and warmly received) ‘Mudslide’.

By half time (a phrase wholly accurate given the amount of Norwich City and Ipswich Town fan banter rattling around the crowd) The Bluetones were comfortably in their stride, and reminding fans new and old why they continue to be an essential fixture in our lives.  Their initial hit ‘Slight Return’ was introduced with a somewhat apologetic caveat that it would be the last time the band would play it for a while, the reaction from the fans was mixed to say the least but it’s my opinion that in dropping this song they’re giving newer songs a bit more space to breath.  And that’s what keeps The Bluetones so damned interesting – they just keep getting better and better.  Stylistically, musically (and possibly ecumenically) The Bluetones noticeably change with each new album but somehow the old songs and albums retain relevance as signposts and teasers to what might come on the next recording.

Before this review disappears up its own arse I’ll end by saying that The Bluetones have now finished their set with ‘If’ for so many years that the opening bass riff has a Pavlov’s dog type reaction on my bladder.  I hear the song and my body knows on a subconscious level that soon will be the time for a quick wee before (in the case of last night) the long trudge back down the A140 to Ipswich and home.

Until the next time old friends; you’ve done yourselves proud.