O2 Academy, Bournemouth 15.03.20
This was the Sunday night before the walls started closing in. We headed out to this one (me and wife Sally) thinking that it could be the last major gig for a while. Scotland set a ban on mass gatherings at 500 people that weekend and I was thinking that only gigs in the smallest of venues would survive in the virus era. A week on and the shutters are down on everything. I needn’t have started looking up venue capacities so enthusiastically.
I was all set for a couple of months going to Joiners (Southampton), The Railway (Winchester) or The Anvil (Bournemouth) but that’s distant dream now.
The capacity at the Bournemouth O2 Academy is 1,800. More on this lovely historic music hall venue in my blog for my last visit (The Wonderstuff).
We did think about selling the tickets for this one a while ago. Bloody glad we didn’t now. Since buying them Blossoms have been added to the line up for Victorious Festival 2020 in August and also as a support band for The Killers at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton in June. Still the way things have panned out (or panned in) grabbing the bird in the hand was a better than those two in the ever thornier looking bush.
I first encountered Blossoms at Glastonbury Festival in 2017. A breezy and bright lunchtime slot on the Friday, one of three sets they played that year. They were light and poppy but I was impressed. From Stockport and all of them born in the same hospital…they told us.
They are touring their third album now, Foolish Loving Spaces, but I think I prefer the first two, one self-titled and the second Cool Like You which includes the very catchy single There’s a Reason Why.
This was looking like a big year for Blossoms.
The gig was a sellout – touts were active – and a substantial queue outside with added searches for chewing gum and other evils. We veered off to the O2 ‘speedy boarding’ lane – weird arrangement. I declared my pocket zoom but they wanted to know if I had gum. No. We’re in. Quick, hold your breath, don’t touch anything and we’re heading for the middle balcony.
As a ‘peacetime’ hypochondriac the idea of a 1500 people gig in a pre-virus outbreak scenario had me quite cautious. I’d made my mind up about the middle balcony a few days before and decided on a no bar visit strategy. If they did invisible ones I would have happily been wearing a full face mask and respirator.
It is just a standing rail on first floor. You can’t see unless you’re leaning on the rail or are a giant. Hence one deep and not many up there – often it’s shut. There is also a third level called ‘The Gods’ with about 5 rows of seating. Also rarely open but there were plenty up there. You do get a good view but high up away from the action. I saw Florence and the Machine from up there once and a few support bands.
The first floor rail is good if you hold your ground (bit of rail). Great view of the packed dancefloor- really packed – down below. A swaying mass of unknown germs but everyone was happy. Seemed like a lot of students. The crowd sang along loudly to tunes played between the bands – such youthful enthusiasm for the likes of The Smiths, Stone Roses and even Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I was amazed.
First support band came on shortly after 7.30pm…. Fever : really..you couldn’t make it up. They played for about 25mins. Sound indie rock.
With two support bands, a smallish stage and podiums for Blossoms drums and keyboards Fever squashed to the front of the stage. A four piece from Hull with a bonus guitar live and they are on the same label as Blossoms: Very Clever, on which their single ‘Jungle Man’ is released.
https://youtu.be/Li2m8fPsVLM …’Jungle Man’
Their frontman reminded me of Tim Burgess of The Charlatans a bit. I will listen some more.
A bit of stage clearance and audience shuffling at the front and it was time for The Magic Gang. There seemed to be a lot of people to see them. I noted that they were from Brighton but the lead singer announced that this was a local gig for him, having been to school in Twynham, Dorset, which got a distinct cheer from pockets at the front.
On looking them up they’ve been doing well themselves – Radio One playlists, sell-out gigs and a couple of albums. Kept the attention and had a dynamic and unusual front man Jack Kaye who skipped and jumped about with large pale trousers on. Not really rocky enough for me but then we are at a Blossoms gig. All very jingley jangley with some nice guitar stuff.
They have an album out in May incitefully entitled ‘Death of the Party’ and the audience loved ’em, especially those down the front end.
So at about 9.10pm on Sunday 15 March Blossoms came on stage. I wonder how long we are all going to wait for the next major band to get on a stage in front of a live audience, in the same room. Maybe tickets will be issued after we’ve returned our virus test results – clearly it’s not going to be anytime soon so I’m glad I enjoyed this one, and enjoy it I did.
Some 60s feel psychedelic lighting, bold colours, LOVE emblazoned keyboard presented a fitting context for front man Tom Ogden’s pinky brown suit with flapping flares and lapels that could fly.
Now if I wore that I’d look like Rodney Bewes in The Likely Lads at a dinner party but Ogden’s a cool guy with flowing locks that can carry it off. … he does remind me a bit though of former Spurs and Bournemouth injury prone midfielder Darren Anderton 🤔 Hope he’s eating well enough.
Second song in and it’s my favourite Blossoms number: ‘There’s a Reason Why‘. Great song from there 2018 album, the second one, ‘Cool Like You’.
Next was another I like a lot from that album ‘I Can’t Stand it’ so off to a flyer. Three albums is a good number to pick a set from.
Full set list: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/blossoms/2020/o2-academy-bournemouth-bournemouth-england-2b992832.html
Tom gets down to the LOVE keyboards soon enough – frontman is understating his influence with vocals, guitar, keyboards and songwriting.
Their first single ‘Blow’ gets an outing from 2014 – I didn’t realise they went that far back.
Tom Ogden talks a bit but the performance is about the sound and the effective basic essential visuals, not rabble rousing. The crowd don’t need it. The audience is thoroughly absorbed and singing along to the big choruses. Beer still occasionally flies like Oasis are back – virus free hopefully – and a strange mid way back mosh pit space emerges below with bodies on shoulders lurching into and out of the space.
Tom gets a solo spot later in the set but the band are back promptly for the run in to the finish. ‘Honey Sweet’ (first album) and ‘Sunday was a Friend of Mine’ (new album) were my favourites included in the later part before the encores.
Despite my lack of appearance at the bar by this time I’m thinking I’d better chance the gents – oh no – what protective clothing have I got? What cleaning materials? In I go, rail space squeezed out the minute I leave – text book no hands door opening and I’m in….Jesus…the gents is a viral hot spot. Water gently laps on the floor and wet paper towels festoon the sinks. I’ll be lucky not to catch anything never mind just Coronavirus 😨. I have a go and wrestle with the taps and broken soap dispenser before speedily departing, elbows chiselling at the door gap. I emerge gasping for breath – of course I held it in while in the viral den – and return calmly to my lost bit of rail.
I wandered down the front left of the small balcony to snap a few pics. Some mature Manc lads down there following their local boys.
To finish ‘Charlemagne’ the first track of their first album. Probably their most popular song performed here on a Radio One live broadcast.
A great one to end on and the last song I will hear live in the flesh for a while….I look forward to the great gig return. My hair can’t get any greyer but it’ll likely be a bit longer. I have tickets booked for 22 gigs and a festival and they have been falling off the calendar all week. The least of anyone’s worries eh.
One useful overview of where we stand with viral cancellations is available from Which? but it’s not all about grabbing back what you can. Rebooking to support bands and venues etc must be encouraged. Also many businesses are doing more than they can to allow flexibility and help damage limitation, such as Premier Inn as I found for example.