We all know the feeling by now. The ‘I should have been…’ feeling.
Ruminations and regret about festivals or gigs that we’ve missed out on as the pandemic ripped through the world, cancelling event after event. Typically, and just our luck, the music industry has been hit the hardest (with the exception perhaps of live comedy).
Nadine Shah, a musician arguably in her prime, has had to move home because she couldn’t afford to stay in her flat in London now that the live scene has simply stopped and she has to rely on streaming revenue alone. We are all either twiddling our thumbs or, more likely, crossing our fingers for the rest of the year.
Yet, as the lockdown has lifted, the first tentative steps towards ‘normality’ can be taken. Although the immediate future of gigs with audiences is uncertain, musicians can at least meet up and perform. Back in the early days of the lockdown, a host of artists went admirably DIY, often to be found with just them and their guitar. The next logical step was for the process to be formalised, and now more and more ‘gigs’ are popping up, requiring the purchase of a ticket; The Streets, JARV IS… and Ride (to name but a few) all have these ‘gigs’ planned over the next few weeks.
They are likely to become an additional part of the promotion campaign (for those not already utilising the opportunity), and for a band such as The Blinders, who consciously create their own worlds anyway, it’s actually an added benefit.
Their new album Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath was due for release earlier in the year but was delayed, naturally, and so for the best part of six months they’ve been drip-feeding glimpses and flashes into this new, psychotic world they’ve created. A performance took place in their Boiler Room studio (stylistically very similar to the album artwork) last night, with red walls, lampshades and mood lighting all adding to the timeless aesthetic. Rather than using one or two cameras, the performance was shot like a film, allowing for some excellent cinematography, complimenting the intensity of the band and giving each member an opportunity at the limelight. The audience are also able to get a real glimpse of what the individual members are actually doing.
All sharply dressed and sweating profusely by the end, the expanded live band now numbers six which, given the flourishes and added flavours of the new album, does Fantasies… justice. Eoghan Clifford, brought in to support on guitar, gets the most to do in recreating the new soundscapes, adding an otherworldliness to the epic closing double-header of Et Tu and Brutus, and making the jagged punk of Lunatic (With A Loaded Gun) sound even more fraught with danger. On the extended I Want Gold, he and Thomas Heywood take turns to kiss the sky on lead guitar.
Thomas Gastrey, drafted in on drums, Paris Taylor (percussion) and Callum Chesterman on keys all prove themselves to be indispensable. One can presume that the additional members will join the trio on their tour next year, which should make the gigs – already likely to be barnstorming after a year’s frustration – even more intense and essential.
Which is not to take away from the core members of the band. Bassist Charlie McGough would fit into the most recent incarnation of the Arctic Monkeys, louche in posture and sharp of suit. He swoons and swivels to every pluck of his guitar, lost in the music. Heywood is righteous yet restrained even without an audience, seizing a few opportunities to play up to the camera (as all great frontmen would).
The set consists of a straight-forward run through of the new album (minus the acoustic In This Decade) before a handful of tracks from their debut Columbia, including the now eerie I Can’t Breathe Blues. The new tracks come across as raucous as you’d expect, the live setting enhancing the tempo changes of Black Glass in particular.
It’s as good a show as one could hope for, and temporarily we get as lost in their musical world as The Blinders themselves, but we’re brought back to reality when a track ends and there’s no applause.
A horrible reminder but, based on this performance, we have much to look forward to.