Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blancmange @ The Academy Birmingham, Friday 11th February 2011

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Given Blancmange’s 25 year absence that might go some way to explaining the rapturous reception the band got this evening. In fact I’ve seldom seen so much love for a band in my life. Remarkable. The applause began when Neil, Pandit and Graham (original keyboardist Stephen was cruelly diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurism…with complications…on the eve of the tour) came onstage and it was every bit as loud and enthusiastic when they left an hour or so later. Bookending the set were a couple of tracks from the rather splendid new album ‘Blanc Burn’. ‘I’m Having a Coffee’ kicked things off, a remarkably low key way to begin a comeback gig but somehow just a very Blancmange thing to do…understated and down to earth…exactly like frontman Neil in fact. “Flippin’ ‘eck” he’d mutter throughout the evening “25 years!” as if even he couldn’t believe they were back. But they are. And, I’d be inclined to say, better than ever - vocally, musically and performance wise (although Neil’s never been one for overdoing that aspect of a show). We got pretty much all the hits from the track that perhaps kickstarted the comeback, a mass singalong ‘Livin’ On The Ceiling’, through to earlier, slightly lesser known numbers like ‘God’s Kitchen’.

The evening was peppered with little anecdotes from Neil, on ‘Waves’ he let us know that he’d suffered a monster case of seasickness during the filming of the video and after a frenetic run through of the new album’s highlight ‘The Western’ he, somewhat breathlessly explained that they hadn’t thought about how difficult it might be to do it live. Happily percussionist Pandit was on hand to help out with the chorus. Getting him to play on these dates was an inspired move. I’m a real synth lover but the addition of more organic live instruments (in this case tablas and other drums) really helped to bring the show to life.

The set finished with an energetic 'Starfucker', “Thank goodness I’ve had me knee done” acknowledged Neil beforehand, reminding us once more of the frankly huge passage of time that’s elapsed between their last tour and this one. To be honest for most of the rest of the gig you could’ve been watching a band fizzing with all the energy and excitement of one of their first tours though, such was the obvious joy and gratitude oozing from every pore of Neil’s being. The feeling was mutual.You hear that applause at the end of the gig Neil? That’s love that it is...

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