Sunday 23 June 2019

Blossoms / The Coral / Cabbage / The Blinders / Fuzzy Sun - Stockport Edgeley Park - 22nd June 2019

To play the football stadium in your hometown has to be one of the crowning achievements for any band growing up. Blossoms achieved that on Saturday night with a 15,000 gig at Stockport County's Edgeley Park, which sold out in hours, testament to the rise of a band who got their name from a pub just the other side of the railway lines from the proud imposing over a century old ground.

These series of gigs (Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott had played the previous two nights) are the first to be held in the stadium and it'd be great if it were to become a regular event. Easily accessible from Manchester and Stockport town centre, it's a perfect set up for a gig of this size and the layout and organisation were really well thought out and planned and made the whole experience, which can sometimes be awful at this size of events, a real pleasure.

First up are Stockport's own Fuzzy Sun, keen to show their own metropolitan pride with drummer Mitch wearing the shirt which club legend Jim Gannon wore when County got promoted to the Championship and Kyle constantly referencing where we are. Musically they're perfect for a sunny afternoon and get a rapturous response from the growing crowd. Heavy and Eve, full of delicious crisp melodies and luscious vocal harmonies, are irresistibly seductive in their approach. They step things up with their forthcoming single I Ain't Right, the crowd reacting to Kyle's command to dance, before finishing with Want Love, the sweet combination of Daisy and his vocals drifting through the warm Stockport evening air and charming anyone in its path proving that there's plenty of other bands in town queuing to follow the headliners' path to success.

Next up are The Blinders and a huge mosh pit ensues as the likes of L'Etat C'est Moi, Brave New World and ICB Blues fill the bowl and take that bulldozing energy of their own more intimate live shows and convert it to these bigger stages with no signs of the growing pain between the two. Charlie struts the stage imperiously and the emotion in Thomas's delivery is amplified by the close-ups on the big screens at the sides of the stage while Matty dictates the beat, particularly in these song's sparser moments, that draw such a positive response from the crowd. Any doubts that their combative approach might not translate to a perfect summer night in a football ground are dissipated by the vitriolic Rat In A Cage and the final potent journey of Brutus.

Cabbage are another band on a mission and they get a similar bouncing response from the centre section of the crowd and our first flares of the evening as they start with recent single Torture before choosing a set that relies heavily on their earlier EPs than their Nihilistic Glamour Shots debut album. It's a wise choice as the event calls for the riotous adrenaline rushes of the likes of Uber Capitalist Death Trade, Terrorist Synthesizer, Dinner Lady and the final Necroflat In The Palace that has several thousand screaming "I Was Born In The NHS, I Want To Die In The NHS" than the more considered pieces from the album. This allows them too to make the translation from hot and sweaty clubs to hot and sweaty football fields seem natural.

The Coral may be old enough to parent the other bands on the bill, but their seemingly endless stream of timeless songs. Sweet Release from last year's Move Through The Dawn and Holy Revelation from 2016's Distance Inbetween blend seamlessly with more seasoned classics like Jacqueline, Bill McCai, Pass It On, In The Morning and their parting shot Dreaming Of You make a connection with the increasingly expectant crowd. They're enchanted by their insistent and beautifully crafted hooks, that have influenced tonight's headliners, that makes them perfect for a late summer evening as the sun starts to drop. As they depart we ponder whether they're more appreciated by this generation rather than our own.

It is unquestionably Blosssoms' night, the peak of their career to date, but like each of the others it still feels like a staging point on to something bigger as neither their creativity or their work ethic, if new single Your Girlfriend is anything to go by, appears to be slowing down. It's fitting that their biggest gig to date is in their home town. The rebirth of Stockport can be traced with the rise of Blossoms, the town is seeing huge investment into the once decaying town centre, the slow rise of County back up the leagues with this season's National League North championship and a return of civic pride. No longer are Stockport bands saying they're from Manchester - "Good evening Stockport, we are Blossoms from Stockport", a phrase Tom has used from the early days of the band has a particular resonance here as does the use of Frankie Vaughan's Stockport as their entry song.

Blossoms have their detractors, the ones that say they've sold out, that they're cheesy pop rather than dark and dour as you should be if you're from Up North. They're wrong. From the minute the booming electronic backing track crashes into a glorious At Most A Kiss to the final bars of Charlemagne being greeted with a huge explosion of ticker-tape, Blossoms are a glorious celebration of intelligent pop music that makes you want to dance, nod to decades of musical touch points without stealing them and have lyrics that you can relate to about love, loss and all the feelings that come with that.

Flares light up the sky throughout, creating an almost toxic smoke, friends climb on each other's shoulders for a moment then swap places creating a real sense of togetherness and celebration. Every word of Tom's, from references to a school prom at Edgeley Park to the areas of town from which they come and his customary introductions of the band, is met with a deafening roar as is Charlie's Grandad's impromptu appearance to encourage us to shout louder before the encore.

For a band two albums in to deliver an eighty minute set with no lulls is quite an achievement in these days of focus tracks and filler rather than crafting classic albums, but Blossoms do that and more. Those early psyche-influenced singles Blow and Cut Me And I'll Bleed are still both very much present and correct, glammed up but still representing one of the many side of Blossoms' multi-dimensional sound. Blown Rose and Love Talk, where Tom and Charlie go cheek to cheek, are full of heartfelt romanticism tinged with heartache as is a brass-enhanced My Favourite Room and its snippets of You're Gorgeous and Half The World Away. Those nods to their record collections continue with an instrumental section of New Order's Blue Monday added on to the end of Between The Eyes and their surprise cover of Bowie's Let's Dance. It's a brave choice of song to cover, but they absolutely nail it because of their intrinsic love of great pop music from across generations.

They finish, of course, with probably their two best-known songs. Tom gets the audience to sing the opening lines to There's A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls) acapella before the crowd erupt as one as Myles' unmistakable keyboard line kicks in and the air once again becomes multi-coloured. Charlemagne is the only song they can realistically finish with though, a two and half minute explosion that, whilst it's far from their best song, is the one final celebration of a day and the perfect ending to a magical night.

Blossoms played At Most A Kiss, I Can't Stand It, Cool Like You, Honey Sweet, I Just Imagined You, How Long Will This Last?, Love Talk, Your Girlfriend, Blown Rose, Blow, Giving Up The Ghost, Stranger Still, Between The Eyes / Blue Monday, Cut Me And I'll Bleed, Getaway, My Favourite Room, Unfaithful, Let's Dance, There's A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls) and Charlemagne.

Fuzzy Sun are on Facebook and Twitter.

Cabbage's website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

The Blinders' website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter

The Coral's official website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

Blossoms' official website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

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