Blancmange: Darwen Library Theatre, Blackburn – live reviewBlancmange
Darwen Library Theatre, Blackburn
4 November 2013

As an eighteen year-old, I was gutted when Blancmange announced in 1986, that ‘I Can See It’ would be there final single. Gutted, because I’d never seen them, and, probably never would. When Faithless released their classic swansong album ‘The Dance’ in 2010 it contained a re-work of the Blancmange track ‘Feel Me’ from their debut album ‘Happy Families’. It brought back such memories and I contacted Neil Arthur to tell him so. From the ensuing contact, I found out that Blancmange were returning, not only with a new album (2011’s ‘Blanc Burn’), but also with a tour. Bliss.

With another tour sandwiched in between, I witnessed my third Blancmange gig in as many years at Darwen Library Theatre. Always a special location due to Darwen being Neil’s birthplace, always a special bond with the audience.

Unfortunately, due to his continued struggle with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, fellow Aunt Stephen Luscombe was again not present, but, David Rhodes who played guitar on 1982’s ‘Happy Families’ was. To make up a foursome, sound engineer Adam Fuest and ‘Ugu’ joined the big man on stage.

Kicking off with ‘Lose Your Love’ the sound was great. Pumping drumbeats and some pretty awesome guitar work made for a truly brilliant sound in the small venue. Fuest took on the role of Brian Eno by contributing some live sound manipulations – sometimes unpredictable but often interesting – it added a new dimension to the performance.

With five tracks from ‘Blanc Burn’ and added gems to follow including the marvellous ‘Blind Vision’, the attention was then turned to a re-visited, re-recorded re-run of ‘Happy Families’. Released to coincide with, and only initially available on tour, ‘Happy Families Too’ combines the original ten tracks from the classic debut album which have been given a true 21st Century twist.

With enough of the originals for us forty-somethings to reminisce fondly, and enough of an update for the several young teenagers (I counted three) to enjoy the tunes, Neil blitzed the album with ease even donning a guitar himself to play the instrumental ‘Sad Day’. In between tracks he displayed his typical Northern humour, interacting regularly with the audience to tell jokes, anecdotes and catch a flying Curly Wurly whilst several members left their seats and danced in front of the stage.

A polished performance by one of Britain’s finest pop acts of the last 30 years that could only be bettered by the recovery and appearance of Mr Luscombe. We wait and we hope.

Blancmange Tour dates:

  • 06 Nov Sound Control Manchester
  • 07 Nov Broadcast Glasgow
  • 09 Nov The Brook Southampton
  • 10 Nov Brighton Concorde 2 Brighton
  • 11 Nov Robin 2 Wolverhampton
  • 12 Nov Nottingham Rescue Rooms Nottingham
  • 13 Nov Eric’s Liverpool Liverpool
  • 15 Nov The Garage London London
  • 16 Nov Clwb Ifor Bach Cardiff

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Blancmange’s website can be found here.  They’re also on Facebook and Twitter.

All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul is working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, the BBCs longest running alternative music programme. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow hiapop Blog on Twitter, @hiapop.

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