The Bluetones at Lemon Grove, Exeter [Gig Review]

The Bluetones originally began their slow-subtle shuffle into the music world back in 1993, forming in Hounslow, London, with the original quarter of Mark Morriss, Adam Devlin, Ed Chesters and Scott Morriss. It was two years before debut single Are You Blue or Are You Blind? was released in 1995’s early wave of Britpop taking over the country and they followed it up with the more than iconic Bluetonic. But it was the turn of 1996 that truly drew them into the limelight with Slight Return hitting number 2 in the UK charts and cementing itself on every 90s era indie album that’s followed.

What’s particularly impressive about the ‘Tones though isn’t just their longevity, bar a temporary break between 2011 and 2015, it’s that somehow they haven’t released a new album since 2010’s A New Athens but the huge, loyal fanbase continues to support and new fans keep discovering the boys on their recent tours, where you’re guaranteed both a show, a plethora of catchy hits and seemingly effortless musicianship. Make no mistake, Mark likes to parade the self-deprecating tone of whatever he can claw his dry and highly entertaining front-man status into, and can be found selling their back catalogue as a glorious collection of ‘mid-tempo bangers’ but right across their existence, their songs are full of sharp melody, intelligent progression and unerringly unique song-craft with smart lyrics.

So, where’s this gig review then, Dan, you ask? It’s coming but I also thought it was the perfect time to offer up an unashamed The Bluetones love-in because this is a band that has been a continual part of my life since I was 15 and while I’d love some new music from the gang, their huge back catalogue was on fine display as they gave the Lemon Grove in Exeter two separate sets, broken up a momentary 12-minute interval which only increased the excitement of the fellow gig-goers.

This current tour, still going strong until from now ’til 21st December across the UK, initially focuses on a complete set of their third album from 2000, Science & Nature. For me, it’s one of their finest all-encompassing offerings, delving into varieties of genres but still managing to find an impressive balance that strikes right through heart of the album from start to finish. Playing a whole album live can always come with limitations but this one is a real treat, especially hearing tracks like Tiger Lily, Slack Jaw, Emily’s Pine and reggae-edged The Basement Song for the first time in a while (for me).

While witnessing any band progress live through an album from start-to-finish can create a different kind of atmosphere among an audience, as if you’re either diving back into your own memories of it or simply watching with admiration, The Bluetones manage to bring their own individual wit and warmth in-between tracks and – as usual – take the crowd along with them, right up to that aforementioned (and promised by Mark) 12-minute or so interval.

So, momentary break done, extra pints in hand and ‘Part 2’ kicks off into the ‘best of’ and by this time, everyone is well and truly ready for a bounce around. Firing out such top class tunes as Bluetonic, Cut Some Rug, If…, Never Going Nowhere (a song that I have a definite affinity with) and many, many more. So many, in fact, you end up forgetting where you are as all the band just ramp up the fun, bring out the entertainment. One particular moment resulted in Mark chatting along about loving our Mum’s, why we all should appreciate them and… quite a lot of Mum discussion alongside a ‘My Cherie Amour’-like keyboard accompaniment.  Whilst he loses the focus of why he’s talking about it so much, the room ends up highly entertained by the sheer madness but also reminds everyone, once again, why these boys are still so revered and why we’d welcome them back to Exeter every year if they wanted to. Heck, you can play my house if you need a venue.

Slick, savvy and sharp with every song given a moment to breathe and expand, whether it’s a hit or an album track, they’re still an outstanding live band and give everything to offer those who’ve paid up their hard-earned cash to be entertained. Mark, Scott, Adam and Ed never disappoint, just make sure you bounce around because, well, if you don’t do it now, when are you going to next? Oh, one more thing, we really were an attractive crowd, cheers Mark!

The Bluetones are on tour now! Coming up… Guildford (21st November), Worthing (22nd), Norwich (23rd), Leicester (28th), Manchester (29th), Middlesborough (30th), Preston (13th December) and London at the Water Rats on 21st December – Find out more here…



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