Review: Blossoms – Limelight, Belfast
Returning to Belfast’s Limelight Blossoms have a new album (Cool Like You) up their sleeve since the last time they played in the venue back in March 2017. It’s clear that Belfast are keen to have the Stockport quintet back again too as it’s a sold out show.
Pairing up with local talent, Derry-Londonderry punk trio Touts, the two bands have toured extensively together in the UK and Ireland in the past year. This time they’ve invited along Dublin band Inhaler treating the audience to two support acts before the main act take to the stage.
Inhaler were first up easing us into the evening with some hazy, synth spattered, post-punk melancholia. Hailed by Tatler as “one of Dublin’s most promising young bands” Inhaler certainly take to the stage emanating a confidence beyond their mere two years together. Perhaps this aptitude for the stage is genetic for one member of the band, frontman Eli Hewson, who happens to be the son of U2 frontman, Bono.
Their sound is filled with fuzzy, distorted guitar riffs and a catchy choruses that almost verge into the terrain of pop. The movie Sing Street comes to mind and it’s not just because of its portrayal of a young Dublin band. More because Inhaler have tapped into that sweet spot between pop and rock n roll and it works so well. Having also started the band together at school like Sing Street, there is certainly more that one parallel with the movie…
However, where Sing Street’s catchy “Drive It Like You Stole It” may inspire one to dance, Inhaler’s music, ruminating on relationships and “social media and its twisted effects on the youth” may inspire you to… sway. The band have cited Echo and The Bunnymen and Joy Division as their inspirations and this inspiration is very distinct in their sound.
Telling the crowd it has been their “best gig yet” Inhaler leave the audience with the feeling that it may not be long before they’re back again. Inhaler and Blossoms aren’t totally dissimilar musically, both bands have a penchant for synth and guitar. However, if Inhaler eased us into the evening Touts upped the ante with their homegrown punk guitar riffs.
The band get off to a false start though as they begin “Sold Out” and stop after the intro while guitarist and singer, Matt, fumbles with his guitar. Frontman Luke watches him muttering “fuck sake kid” into the mic after a few minutes of further fumbling.
Initial hiccup resolved, the band jump into “Sold Out” and it’s a bit more fast paced than Inhaler’s melancholy post-punk vibes. “Anybody here from Derry?” inquires Luke. Answered with a few cheers from the crowd, he follows with “This is a song for everyone else – it’s called “Go Fuck Yourself”” A Touts gig is always filled with these moments of banter. The band don’t take themselves too seriously despite consistently high calibre sets and it’s refreshing to see.
The band get the audience sufficiently warmed up, playing an energetic set that includes their most recent releases “Asleep” and “Can’t Blame Me”
After a short interlude the eagerly awaited main act take to the stage. Blossoms walk out to one of the most popular entrance music tracks – Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” It’s extremely jarring for a band such as Blossoms to walk out to this particular track. Bringing to mind a plethora of popular tv shows and adverts that have utilised the track so many times before; it feels completely at odds with the band’s sound. It gets the set off to a slightly weird, incongruous start.
Without preamble, Blossoms begin their popular single “I Can’t Stand It” much to the audience’s excitement as shrieks from the crowd reverberate in the venue. It’s immediately striking how faultlessly lead singer Tom Ogden’s vocals match the recordings. However, live performances shouldn’t be a mere replica of records and Blossoms manage to retain similarity while also adding a new vibrancy to their live performance.
Next is “Honey Sweet” the popular single from their self titled 2016 debut album. It’s easy to see the familiarity with this song both from the audience and Blossoms. While the audience are singing along to every word, the band insert small musical pauses for dramatic effect.
The band work their way through their set playing popular hits such as “Cool Like You” and “Getaway.” A highlight of the set however is lesser known 2016 track “Blow.” We’ve been subjected to a lot of synth by this point however the keyboard notably takes the backseat on this very britpop-esque track. “And it’s everywhere she goes, I don’t know if it’s love that you want…” sings the audience along to the chorus, there may even be a hint of surprise on Ogden’s face as the audience consistently shows their love for Blossoms music even on the lesser known tracks.
“You’re my favourite tonight, Belfast” Ogden tells the audience as the other band members leave the stage. Guitar in hand he begins a solo four-song mashup playing “My Favourite Room” followed by “You’re Gorgeous,” “Last Christmas” and “Half the World Away.” This seems to be a quirk of Blossoms gigs as they performed a similar medley of songs at their Limelight show in 2017. It adds a bit of variety to their show, breaking up the the main set with their encore.
As encores go, Blossoms are pretty generous with theirs. Following repeated screams of “Oy Oy, Oy Fuckin’ Oy” from the audience, Blossoms really had no choice but to get back on stage to appease the riotous crowd. Kept in the reserves until this point, the band play their hit “At Most a Kiss” which only excites the audience further – from the moment that familiar synth opening starts the audience are rapturous.
They play a further three songs, including a previously unheard cover of The Smiths’s “Bigmouth Strikes Again.” It’s a bold move covering a song so beloved to so many, however Blossoms manage to do it justice, putting their own spin on it but nothing too radical.
They end the evening by finally surrendering to the audience their most popular songs – “There’s a Reason Why (I Never Return Your Calls)” and “Charlemagne.” As the gig finishes up you’re left with the distinct feeling that next time Blossoms are in Belfast they may well need a bigger venue to contain their loyal fans. Until then…