Setlist 1 – Science and Nature
The Last Of The Great Navigators
One Speed Gearbox
Autophilia (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Car)
Keep The Home Fires Burning
The Basement Song
Setlist 2 – The Hits
Cut Some Rug
Freeze-Dried Pop (Dumb It Up)
Never Going Nowhere
The Bluetones arrived in Nottingham in good spirits, as they reached the centre point of the UK leg of their latest tour. This time they were celebrating 20 years since the release of their third album, ‘Science & Nature’, along with a nod to their Singles album that came a few years later.
They took to the stage for their first set of the night dressed in white scientists’ lab coats, a nod to the album title, with the Rescue Rooms roaring in rapturous applause and cheers. They launched into an explosive rendition of ‘Science & Nature’ album opener ‘Zorrro’, the crowd singing along to every word. As frontman Mark Morriss belted the final “Seven levels below”, the first big cheer of the night rang out. Clearly it’s a night for the fans, as is so often the case with The Bluetones gigs.
The fact that Science & Nature wasn’t their most successful album wasn’t lost on Morriss, who was quick to poke fun at its popularity. Explaining the format of the night, the audience learned that they’ll be treated to the entire album in its original order. So, then, he challenges the audience to name the second track on the album. I have to admit I struggled, along with most of the rest of the room. It all came flooding back as they launched into a perfect rendition of ‘The Last Of The Great Navigators’ and then ‘Tiger Lily’.
The self-deprecating humour didn’t stop there. Introducing ‘Mud Slide’, Morriss lets the audience into a secret about the format of the release. It was chosen as the third single from the album, but both the band and the record label Mercury were concerned it might fail to chart due to poor sales. So the solution was to release it as a five-track EP, “thus disqualifying it from the charts altogether”. He claims it was a wise choice because they only sold 27 copies of it. I’m sure that was underplaying it slightly, but I certainly got hold of a copy by nagging Electron in Burnley to get a copy in stock, despite the owner initially denying that the EP existed.
‘One Speed Gearbox’ was next, closing side one of the record, another underappreciated gem from this album that came to life in a rare live outing. It’s a mellow ending to the first side of the record and served as the quiet before the three-and-a-half-minute storm that was awaiting us just around the corner.
This comes in the form of ‘Blood Bubble’, which was stunning. It’s a rare beast for The Bluetones, being a track that features no vocals, but the band just turn the volume up and let rip. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what the crowd do. It’s a song I’ll always strangely associate with the series Spaced (it was used in one of the trailers for the second series, which the band also starred in), so I had to check if I had any Jaffa Cakes in my coat pocket.
‘Autophilia (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Car)’, was next. It’s a song I never enjoyed when it was originally released and it hasn’t grown on me since. As I look around the room, I can see I’m in the minority.
Introducing the album’s lead single, ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’, Morriss declared “This one’s about domestic violence”, before adding after a perfectly-timed delay “Its against it!” If there is one song from this album that could challenge for being their best ever song, it is surely this one. The title of the track is borrowed from an old British patriotic wartime song composed by Ivor Novello, with matching brass backing that sounds like they’re lifted from an advert for baked bread. It’s truly a thing of beauty and sounds as good tonight as it ever has.
The final trio were played out as perfect replicas of their studio-recorded originals. It was a privilege to see a song like ‘Slack Jaw’ live after listening to it for two decades.
After a short break, the band came back on stage to perform, as Morriss put it, “smash after smash after smash”. This set included two tracks from their singles collection: ‘After Hours’ and ‘Freeze Dried Pop’. Both were clearly commercially minded upon release, although the latter never saw the light of day thanks to a fall out with the record label that was explained in detail by Morriss. He joked that the band promised to tell everyone that it was their own decision, despite the fact this was far from the truth.
Their final two tracks – ‘Slight Return’ and ‘If…’ were met with the loudest singing of the night, each audience member desperate to enjoy every last drop of fun from the set. The Bluetones have a dedicated fan base and it didn’t feel like there were many speculative attendees on a night. This was an audience packed with die-hard fans of the band, and they’ll surely be back in full voice again next time the band come to town.