Halfway through Blossoms’ gig at Stockport County FC’s stadium, frontman Tom Ogden tells the audience that the last time he and drummer Joe Donovan were here, it was in a function room for their school prom.
Ten years later, and the quintet (swollen to a touring six-piece) are receiving a hero’s welcome in front of 10,000 people while seemingly dressed in the same rented coloured suits. It’s fitting because a lot of Blossoms’ sleek, synth pop sounds like it could soundtrack a teenage dance scene in a lost 1980s John Hughes film.
Blossoms’ biggest homecoming so far was always destined to be a slam-dunk. They’re the town’s biggest cultural ambassadors – to the point where the ‘Welcome To Stockport’ road signs helpfully include ‘Home Of Blossoms’ underneath. The Blossoms – the bar from which the band cribbed their name – is doing a roaring trade today. Fan-held outsized Stockport FC flags adorned with their lyrics (“There’s a reason why…”) adorn the streets. Beforehand, Tom had dubbed the gig – which saw support from, among others, The Coral (frontman James Skelly produced Blossoms two top five albums) – ‘the Glastonbury of Stockport’, and a festival vibe prevails. You might call it Woodstockport. They even walk onstage to crooner Frankie Vaughan’s paean ‘Stockport’ (sample lyrics: ‘There’s simply nowhere finer/I wouldn’t budge from Stockport for all the tea in China’), but sadly bassist Charlie Salt doesn’t don the club’s Vernon the Bear furry mascot suit – as he did in last year’s humorous 2018 ‘Where Are Blossoms?’ mockumentary.
Having released the Talking Heads-inspired single ‘Your Girlfriend’ this week (which sees them shed their glossy electro skin), tonight feels like one final victory lap for the ‘Cool Like You’ era. Opening with the glistening pop-rush of ‘At Most A Kiss’ and ‘I Can’t Stand It’, bedlam ensues, as they’re greeted by a haze of coloured smoke – Blossoms’ fans love flares more even more than the most ardent gilets jaune rioter. In front of neon strips, Tom strikes his best angular Jarv-ish Cocker poses, as the band blitz through a well-oiled set packed with pop that mines the euphoric/melancholic intersection and uniformly boast choruses that stick like Velcro. The Brill Building-channeling likes of the swooning ‘Honey Sweet’, ‘Love Talk’ and ‘How Long Will This Last?’, meanwhile, have older couples in the crowd nuzzling romantically. Before the anthemic Oasis-shaped ‘Your Favourite Room’, Tom commands that he “wants to see you on everyone’s shoulders. You can do it”, as the stadium turns into a mass human version of Jenga.
A party atmosphere is further stoked by a selection of floor-filler covers. The end of the wistful AOR of ‘Between The Eyes’ is heralded by a snippet of New Order’s banging ‘Blue Monday’, while a familiar acoustic section sees Tom simply sing the first few words of Babybird’s ‘You’re Gorgeous’ and Oasis’s ‘Half The World Away’, before the throng pick up the vocal baton.
Best of all, however, is a new one they debut tonight. “Do we have any David Bowie fans in?” asks Tom, before Blossoms launch into a taut, funky version of ‘Let’s Dance’, augmented by a brass section.
“We’ve covered a lot of the classic Manchester tunes,” Tom told NME, shortly before the show. “Last time we played the Castlefield Bowl, we did ‘Whatever’ by Oasis. We did ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ by the Smiths on our last headline tour. We were knocking ideas around and this one came up – we thought we’d probably do a really good cover of that. Then we thought there’s brass on the record, so why not make it extra special by getting them down for the gig. So Josh [guitarist Josh Dewhurst]’s dad is a tutor in music at the University of Salford, and pulled it out the bag and found some guys to help us.”
As for the significance of the night itself, Tom saw it as a landmark moment. “We always drove past here as kids and have been to football matches there growing up,” he recounted to NME. “We always joked and said one day we should do a gig at Edgeley Park. Then the bigger we became, it became a reality. This is everything we’ve been building towards since the start of the band. This is our era-defining moment of the early years. We’re going into the third record, so this is signing off the first two albums with a huge party in your back garden.”
And what a sign-off! The start of ‘There’s A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)’ is sung entirely a capella by the terrace choir, before the jubilant synth fanfares kick in, while the electro-baggy of closer ‘Charlemagne’ ends in a shower of pyro and ticker tape. Stockport County may be playing in the National League, but Blossoms are kicking it in indie-pop’s premiership.
Blossoms’ setlist was:
‘At Most a Kiss’
‘I Can’t Stand It’
‘Cool Like You’
‘I Just Imagined You’
‘How Long Will This Last?’
‘Giving Up the Ghost’
‘Between the Eyes’/’Blue Monday’
‘Cut Me And I’ll Bleed’
‘My Favourite Room’
‘You’re Gorgeous’/’Half the World Away’
‘There’s a Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)’