The Bluetones @The Cockpit, Leeds
The Cockpit, Leeds. 18th April 2003
The first time I ever say the Bluetones was at The Leeds Cockpit, I have to say that much has changed since 1995, not in terms of the venue. No, it's still a railway tunnel with just the right side of 300 people crammed in like half a tube of smarties, but very little else was the same; I'm quite sure that many of the people in the crowd had also been there eight years ago, but they, like the band had matured somewhat. Blokes who were now obviously pushing thirty, wearing the same t-shirt that they hade done when they were 21. The atmosphere was excited but somehow reserved, too. …Polite. And you couldn't help but think that about half of the people there were worried about getting home in time for the baby sitter.
The Bluetones @The Cockpit, Leeds  @
This was a concert attended in the main by the bands original fans, who now, like myself are no longer students and have a life of relative responsibility; it's the only concert where I've been asked (twice!) "Would you mind moving over a little bit? My girlfriend can't see." !?!

As I said, it's not just the crowd who've grown up, The Bluetones are now the fully rounded band that they should've been by the time their second album was released. They still have a prescience and attitude on stage that makes them the great performers that they are, but there's a real polish to the live routine that was always there on studio tracks but was sadly lacking in the flesh. Mark Moriss' vocals have improved massively over the years, always a gifted and charismatic front man, he often let himself down by struggling with the extremities of the octaves and the dramatic key changes that much of the bands music requires. Now, I believe he is the finished article. A shame really, as The Bluetones popularity is not what it once was, as they are overlooked in favour of less talented groups with less capable front men.

Still, the cockpit has it's charm and really has that "The Cavern" feel that has made it popular with so many big groups over the years. One word of complaint however, beer. Or rather the lack of it. We arrived 20 mins late (8.20) the bar had sold out of everything except some bottles of Carling that they were obviously having trouble shifting, even in the circumstances. Not good enough fellahs! Anyway, gripe over and on with the show.

With the new album, "Luxembourg" out in May, and a new single imminent, the band were obviously keen to showcase their new work, and as with any concert of this nature, the crowd were left feeling a little short changed as many old favourites were omitted despite numerous requests.

Highlights of the new work have got to be "Liquid Lips" and "Here it comes again" which I have no doubt will become firm favourites with aficionado's in time to come. "Fastboy" "I love the city" and "Code blue" are among the new albums second tier of work and all are the type of tunes that will grow on you in the same way that "If" and "Marblehead Johnson" did; not classics instantly, but a couple of the best loved Bluetones tracks ever.

The crowd pleasers showcased included "Carnt be trusted", "If", "Cut some rug" and a particularly passionate "keep the home fires burning". I was so pleased to hear the band play one of my personal favourites "Are you blue or are you blind?" Which had just been released when they played The Cockpit the first time around.

There was no room for a couple of the classics in "Marblehead Johnson" and "Slight return" the omission of the latter was greeted by considerable consternation by some portions of the crowd, who let their feelings be known at the end.

The band chose to wrap the evening up with the final track from the new album; "Turn it up". This could well be one of the shining lights of "Luxembourg", but it was a questionable choice for a finale, as after the band had left the stage, many people remained on the floor, disbelieving that the band would end the concert in this way. When the realization that "that was that" actually hit, I think some were left with a bit of a sour taste.

However, lets not take anything away from what was a sparkling and enjoyable performance. Pre-album tours are never as good for the fans as those held six months after an albums release, but if this is anything to go by, I can't wait to see them when the tour reaches it's climax in London at the end of May.

The double A-side 'Fastboy' and 'Liquid Lips' is out now. The band's 4th studio album, "Luxembourg" is released May 12th 2003.