Friday 7 July 2023

Blossoms / Inspiral Carpets / Seb Lowe - Manchester Castlefield Bowl - 6th July 2023

Blossoms returned to the scene of their triumphant 2017 headline show at Castlefield Bowl that saw out the end of the era of their debut album for the first of two huge shows to mark the end of the Ribbon Around The Bomb era, their fourth album and third number one. Support came from old friends Inspiral Carpets and rising star Seb Lowe.

Seb Lowe is a young man on the rise. Still in his teens his path has glided through Manchester venues on the back of viral Tik Tok videos being translated into increasingly well-received singles commenting on political and social issues of the day including the duo of I Fell In Love With A Talking Head and a re-recorded version of Kill Him He's A Socialist. Playing tonight as a four-piece in the absence of violinist Kate, Seb at the helm possesses a confidence that comes with the seemingly unstoppable rise he's experienced so far, unfazed by the size of the crowd and the bands, including the headliners, who've taken this opening slot at Manchester's key outdoor venue over previous years. 

His half-hour set is full of songs that have taken him on that journey - Iphone starts the night's first singalong and he finishes on Terms And Conditions, an erudite take down of the life of the man / woman on the street whilst Cavalryman and Ode To Britannia are dispensed of early in a set that will have won him many new fans.

Blossoms and Inspiral Carpets have history for those wondering about this unusual pairing. Back in 2014 Blossoms went out on the road with the Carpets as they toured their comeback album and became good friends as Blossoms learned their trade from older more experienced artists. Tonight, as Inspirals continue their successful comeback after eight years away, the favour is returned. A ten-song greatest hits set, ignoring Clint's joke that they're going to play some new songs then going into the intro to their best known song This Is How It Feels, delights the older members of the audience who've followed them since the 1980s and picked up Blossoms when they supported and provide reminders of their parents' record collections for many of the younger members of the crowd. 

Most of the old favourites are present and correct - Joe, Dragging Me Down, She Comes In The Fall, Move, Find Out Why, Sackville, I Want You, This Is How It Feels, Two Worlds Collide - before they finish on Saturn 5 which sees Stephen down on the barrier closer to the audience. They pay tribute to their drummer Craig Gill, who passed away in 2016, with a drumskin bearing his name but the addition of Kev Clark on drums and Oscar Boon on bass standing in for Martyn Walsh, means that, despite the jokey reference to new material that doesn't happen, Inspiral Carpets are still a band that are changing things around and enjoying a new lease of life as some reminsisce about them and relive their youth whilst a new set of fans discover them for the first time. The love and respect between them and the headliners is clear to see during both sets.

This is Blossoms' night though. Despite rumours swirling round of big name guests (Liam Fray, Rick Astley) or more underwhelming alternatives, tonight is purely a Blossoms show, the five of them accompanied by John Simm and Dan Woolfie on percussion and Ryan Ellis on additional guitar. Tom tells us as it's a celebration of their ten years together as a band, commemorated by the raising of tin cans of lager as the traditional material for such events, and therefore they take us through what is effectively a greatest hits set culled from all four albums from their "first ever song" Blow through to the likes of Ribbon Around The Bomb's title track and its album singles Care For, Ode To NYC and The Sulking Poet.

That celebratory air transmits itself to the crowd, other than a couple of pockets, there's a feeling of joy in the crowd rather than the aggressive nature of some of their contemporaries. Young and old fans mix together, sing along as one and join in the community spirit of the crowd even when the circle pit opens up at the end. The songs flow together irrespective of the album from which they come without ever sounding like they're repetitive. Blossoms have developed a knack of writing impossibly catchy pop songs that connect immediately and effortlessly. Right from the opening bars of Your Girlfriend through to the final circle pit of Charlemagne there's a real sense of love emanating from the audience to the stage that is reflected back.  

Blossoms have now developed that they are at the level of headliner on stages of this size. They have the songs - twenty of them where the pace or quality never drops which keeps the atmosphere buzzing throughout the ninety minutes they're on stage. There's some stone-cold classic singles - Blown Rose, Getaway, I Can't Stand It, There's A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls), The Keeper, Care For - from across their career as well as some deeper cuts like How Long Will This Last and My Swimming Brain that could quite easily have been singles in their own right. These shows are closing down the fourth album, their first shows of the year, as they get ready to regroup for album five, but new songs are for another day. 

Tom has become an accomplished frontman, able to play the crowd but also still possessing the slightly awkward vulnerability that makes it more genuine than simply being a stage show. He interacts with his best mates throughout - grabbing Josh's leg during How Long Will That Last, forgetting Joe when introducing the band during the breakdown of Charlemagne - and playing to all corners of the bowl and stopping the show when he notices someone passing out during Blown Rose. 

The magic of Blossoms though is the gang mentality, five best mates (and in-laws in Joe and Tom's case) simply living the dream of making music together, being successful with it and having the time of their lives doing it. They may have their detractors, because they're not seen as cool because they appeal to all ages of people from different walks of life, but they've done the hard work over the last decade where they deserve every minute of this success. Eight thousand people get that completely and the night becomes a triumphant celebration of the first decade of a genuinely working class band that's made their breakthrough yet have never forgotten where they're from.

Blossoms played Your Girlfriend, Honey Sweet, Oh No (I Think I'm In Love), The Keeper, Cool Like You, Ribbon Around The Bomb, How Long Will This Last?, Getaway, Ode To NYC, The Sulking Poet, Blown Rose, I Can't Stand It, If You Think This Is Real Life, Care For, Blow, At Most A Kiss, My Swimming Brain, My Favourite Room, There's A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls) and Charlemagne

Blossoms' official website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Huddersfield Parish (July 7) and Leeds Millenium Square (8). 

Inspiral Carpets official website is here. They are also on Twitter and Facebook.  They play Dunfermline PJ Molloys (July 20), Edinburgh Liquid Rooms (21), Sunderland Kubix Festival (22), Perth Rosemount Hotel (28/29), Brisbane The Triffid (August 3), Sydney Manning Bar (4), Melbourne Croxton Ballroom (5), Wellington San Fran (8), Auckland Tuning Fork (9), Derby Hairy Dog (24), Norwich Epic Studios (25) and Portsmouth Victorious Festival (26). 

Seb Lowe is on FacebookTwitter and Tik Tok.

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