WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHEN?: Friday 9 October, touring until 27 August 2022
SETLIST: Celebrate (The Day After You); OK Have It Your Way; One More Time; Crying For The Moon; More Than A Miracle; It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way; Choice; It Pays To Belong; Out With Her; Dust At Her Feet; Said Too Much; Time Storm; Digging Your Scene; Wait; The Wild River; Earthbound; Touching Distance; Superfly; Man From Russia; You Don’t Own Me
‘It doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t make it sing,’ observed the dearly departed Curtis Mayfield on tonight’s opening song and, while we’re massively missing his input, as well as Sylvia Tella’s vocals on her hit duet with the band and some of the sharpest backing vocals of the 80s, this is still a joy of a gig to behold.
- Read on for reasons including how we would have loved the band’s iconic saxophone to have been louder tonight
We’ve probably not got the setlist quite right as we were dancing so much we can’t read our shorthand back and in many ways the nuts and bolts of exactly what was played is far less important than the overall impression.
We’ve only seen The Blow Monkeys twice before: the 1st time was at their commercial peak in the late 80s when Mayfield appeared with them at the old Hammersmith Odeon and later when they were about to split up in the early 90s in Kilburn when the interesting Springtime For The World album wasn’t selling in the quantities they had previously shifted.
Lead singer and guitarist Dr Robert’s funniest comments are reserved for their most popular songs which are now 30 years old and yearn for the death of capitalism.
He can be rueful now about how this didn’t happen but we’re enjoying from the off the instruction to celebrate what we have now before us and the good Doctor’s observation that: ‘I’ve been sitting in a bar for 2 years dreaming of this moment.’
The band actually kicked off their 40th anniversary tour in Cambridge last night, UK tour ticket details in the link below, played a gig in Belgium earlier this summer but otherwise haven’t played live since a December 2019 appearance at the 02 Brixton Academy.
Labour was last in power in the UK in 2010 and The Blow Monkeys 1st found fame in 1986, 7 years into Margaret Thatcher’s rule, and it’s interesting that 11 years after Labour last lost power that some of those older songs start to ring truer now than they have done for a long time.
As a gay man who was yet to come out by the time Digging Your Scene was a hit in 1986, its embracing of the LGBT community at a time when it was being persecuted by the national print media was unforgettable and the line: ‘It’ll get you in the end, it’s God’s revenge’ still stings as much now as when it was the sort of language used in the tabloid press to describe the hysteria around HIV and AIDS.
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way was the hit that followed a year later that set Dr Robert against Thatcher and his vocal opposition to Clause 28, the law that hampered education around matters deemed homosexual, is included in song Choice which we would have loved to have heard Tella’s vocal on tonight.
Many of the hits are stripped of their production here and, while we’re missing some of the sharp backing vocals we remember, the strength of the hits remains iron clad. Wait is particularly good and reminds how quickly Dr Robert was able to turn his band’s fortunes around as dance music was embraced when the novelty of saxaphone-blessed pop wasn’t quite so popular with the fanbase.
We’re less familiar with some of the band’s later work after it reformed in around 2008 but we are very much enjoying the new album Journey To You which we would venture is the best thing they have ever released.
Some of the highlights are played from it this evening and More Than A Miracle in particular sounds especially funky.
It’s always a gamble when you revisit a band you have loved after so long not seeing them live but The Blow Monkeys were on absolute live form fire tonight and that new album is well worth check-check checking out if you haven’t already.
When we interviewed Dr Robert earlier this year he joked about skimping on rehearsal which was nowhere in evidence here.
As Mayfield might have asked, did it sing tonight? Oh. Yes!