Saturday 8 December, O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester
“Have we got a sing-song in us, Manchester?” asks Blossoms frontman Tom Ogden towards the end of their triumphant set. Considering the crowd have spent the past hour and a half ecstatically belting out every lyric at larynx-shredding volume, it’s a question that’s as rhetorical as asking: “So, Piers Morgan, got any problematic views?”
Even before the quintet set foot on stage, the throng are roaring along to rabble rousing indie floor-fillers including The Courteeners’ ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ and ’80s electro classics such as The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ (Blossoms’ own material deftly mines the sonic intersection between the two). So, when Ogden launches into a tried-and-tested campfire acoustic medley of Babybird’s ‘You’re Gorgeous’, Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’ and Oasis’s ‘Half The World Away’, the reception is predictably cacophonous; while he need only play the opening chord of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ and coo the word ‘So…”, before dropping the mic and exiting the stage, for the communal choir to pick up the vocal baton and boisterously bellow every word of the city’s unofficial national anthem.
As the venue is only 11 kilometres from the band’s birthplace of Stockport (‘Home of Blossoms’ has been helpfully added to the town’s welcome signs), tonight’s gig – the first of a weekend of sold-out Victoria Warehouse dates – was always destined to be a slam-dunk, and they bask in the lairy love. Fans wield oversized England flags emblazoned with ‘BLOSSOMS’; so many flares are set off that even the Yellow Vest rioters in Paris might comment “that’s a bit excessive”; and (ingeniously) long-stemmed roses are hurled at Ogden in tribute during the swoomsome ‘Blown Rose’.
Tonight feels like a victory lap capping a sterling year for the band. Released in April, their razor-sharp second album ‘Cool Like You’ saw them fully embrace their sleek, synth-pop side: taut and crammed with more hooks than an S&M dungeon, it sounds like a ‘Now! That’s What I Call Music’ hits compilation that’s fallen through a wormhole from 1987. They’ve just sold out a 2019 gig at Stockport County FC ground – the first band to ever play on the pitch – and then there’s the mooted possibility of their own Netflix sitcom written by The Royle Family’s Craig Cash (following in the lol-steps of their very funny video ‘Where Are Blossoms?’). In August, guitarist Josh Dewhurst deadpanned to NME that they planned to recruit Dynamo and David Blaine as support acts for this gig, adding: “We could freeze him in a giant ice cube and let him melt.” Sadly, Blaine: On Ice isn’t here (doubtless the crowd would have found more inventive objects to throw at the illusionist than roses) but Blossoms don’t need to rely on gimmicks.
Opening with the glistening rush of ‘I Can’t Stand It’ and the Blondie-channelling ‘Unfaithful’ (powered by drummer Joe Donovan’s Motown stomp), one switchblade-sharp anthem with a colossal chorus flows into another. In front of neon strips and followed by roving spotlights, they come on like Alex Turner cosplaying the razzmatazz of The Killers. The yearning ‘Honey Sweet’ and day-glo Newer Order of ‘Cool Like You’ sees people vaulting onto each others’ shoulders, while throughout, Ogden swivels his hips and strikes angular poses like he’s studied a Jarvis Cocker jazzercize DVD.
The wistful, melodic bubblegum angst of ‘How Long Will This Last?, ‘Stranger Still’ and ‘Love Talk’ sound like what would happen if the Brill Building had been based in Stockport. Ogden begins the latter by crouching on the speaker stack, before nuzzling cheek-to-cheek for to its ‘Sha-la-las’ with bassist Charlie Salt in true Libertines style. As the acrid smell of flare smoke fills the air, an acoustic ‘My Favourite Room’ – which feels like the band donning Noel Gallagher’s parka – provides arms-aloft last night at a festival vibes. They perform a judderingly powerful version of Morrissey’s ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, before Ogden teases the crowd: “Audiences are usually really loud at this part so I’m hoping for my hometown to not let us down”. As the throng sing the opening lines of ‘There’s A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)’, before the jubilant keyboard fanfares kick in, bedlam ensues.
Ending with bulletproof electro-baggy of ‘Charlemegne’, they exit the stage to Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’, which causes another euphoric crowd-karaoke session – one that even Theresa May crashing onstage with her weird robot moves and lassoing her Brexit deal around her head like a dildo at a hen night couldn’t have marred.
I Can’t Stand It
Cool Like You
How Long Will This Last?
I Just Imagined You
Cut Me And I’ll Bleed
Giving Up The Ghost
Between The Eyes
My Favourite Room
You’re Gorgeous/Last Christmas/Half The World Away
At Most A Kiss
Bigmouth Strikes Again
There’s a Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)