Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, March 28th
A subverted American flag (lovingly crafted by Blaine’s mum) hangs above the stage, with ‘Radlands’ emblazoned across it. Mystery Jets are teetering on the advent of a new era; a new ‘concept’ album about America, new band members and, by the looks of it, a new wholesale deal on cowboy shirts, to complete the faded glamour/Americana feel. In this intimate venue, on the opening night of their first UK tour in more than a year, the sense of privilege and anticipation is so keen it’s almost overwhelming.
If it weren’t for the look of apprehension on the face of new bassist Peter Cochrane, you’d be hard pushed to tell that Mystery Jets were debuting a fresh line-up tonight. Neatly planted after the sing-along of ‘Serotonin’, an explanation is provided for previous bassist Kai’s absence. “He’s not gone forever – he’s spending time with his wife and baby,” explains William. “But you know how it is with Mystery Jets. It’s never finished, it’s never over.” Eventually, William makes the official introductions, cabaret style, over a muted beat, also introducing Mark, on synths, guitar and pedal steel.
The ‘Radlands’ material is received with buoyant enthusiasm from the overheated crowd. ‘You Had Me At Hello’ is coyly introduced as being about “Blaine’s experience in a brothel” and stands out as the track that rests easiest with their new image. They conjure up some long-lost Eagles harmonies as Blaine pleads, “I want you to love me as if you got no principles”. ‘Greatest Hits’ is a hefty nod to The Kinks, driven by handclaps, keeping the Jets’ loveable schmaltz levels topped up. Album opener ‘Radlands’ best delivers what the imagery promises. A minimal guitar and vocal intro builds; “We both know nothing is quite as it seems”, sings Blaine, as a heavy cloud of dive bar-induced regret hangs over them.
The crowd appear enraptured by the new songs, which have a notably heavier hue than their recent hits. It’s ‘Two Doors Down’ that raises the roof, though. Literally, in tonight’s case, as a fan is held aloft above the exuberant mass, wielding a pair of crutches and dislodging ceiling tiles as he goes.
This article originally appeared in the April 14th issue of NME