LIVE: Boston Manor @ Blackpool Tower, Blackpool

By Yasmin Brown

For most of us, it’s been at least seven months since we last entered a music venue with the excitable anticipation of a child on Christmas morning. The idea of being crammed in a room full of sweaty strangers ever again has become something of a pipe dream. So readily have we adapted our lives to suit the current circumstances, and yet there’s a sadness that lingers, however much we begin to accept this infamous ‘new normal’.

You can’t help but lean into this sadness with every live stream, as has been the case since March – but where acoustic sets aired direct from the homes of our favourite artists feel so far removed from normality that it feels like something new entirely, full band set ups like this evening’s performance at Blackpool Tower are so close to our memories that it makes reality even harder to swallow.

The main event tonight is Boston Manor – a band who proudly call Blackpool home – and the five-piece emerge to near silence in the centre of the stunning venue that we can only admire from afar. Things feel… odd. We’re faced with a vast room that should be filled with bodies slammed against one another, but instead we see the band set up in the round with not a single audience member in sight, and the nostalgic ache increases ten-fold as you take in the scene before you.

What follows is an hour-long set that in some ways fills the gaping hole left by the lack of live music, and yet somehow leaves it feeling even bigger, too.

It’s the first time we’ve experienced many of these songs in a live setting – Boston Manor’s third album ‘GLUE’ was released a month or so after shit really hit the fan – and from the moment they kick off with lead single ‘Everything is Ordinary’, it’s so glaringly and devastatingly clear that this album was written for the live show. For the fans. It’s a belief that’s confirmed by front man Henry Cox later in the stream, as he also confirms this will be Boston Manor’s one and only show of 2020.

Cue the sound of hearts breaking.

To see them being performed without an audience, then, is bittersweet. Squint your eyes and tilt your head a little and you can easily imagine the carnage that would otherwise have ensued, but without a crowd to feed off, Cox seems a little lost and energy feels limited. For a band whose live shows are intensified as a direct result of the endless crowd interactions, it feels like half an experience – even when you ignore the fact that you’re watching it in bed, with your dressing gown on and a towel on your head (no? Just me then).

This is by no means a reflection of the performance itself, however, or the immense talent this band are undeniably in possession of, and there are some benefits to experiencing the show from the comfort of your own home. Throughout the hour you’ll feel goosebumps cover your body, tears will stream down your face, and maybe – just maybe – you’ll start that pit in your living room as Cox desperately urges. Without drunken assholes throwing beer over you, crowdsurfers unknowingly kicking you in the head, or hecklers demanding their favourite song, you can take in every word of Cox’s warming speech about the importance of taking care of our mental health before the band launch into the haunting and poignant ‘On a High Ledge’, his vocals more beautiful than you could ever imagine possible. Later on, the lack of distraction allows you to truly appreciate the sheer vastness of Cox’s vocal versatility, too, as he glides from dirty to clean vocals effortlessly.

It takes some time, but you’ll notice the exact moment everyone starts to loosen up just a little during new track ‘You, Me & the Class War’, and after this – if there was any doubt left in our minds – the remainder of the performance cements the fact that this band are, without question, one of the greatest things to come out of the British music scene over the past few years. Despite the ample limitations, every second of this stream proves that.

Once you brush off the oddness of it all, being able to experience tracks from ‘GLUE’ in a full live environment (lights and all) only further highlights Boston Manor’s talent, each song proving itself to be far more dynamic than we could ever have realised from the studio versions. And if you push down the sadness that comes with the question, “When will live music ever return as it once was?”, you’ll feel the excitement bubbling inside you for when that day finally comes, and we can once again get kicked in the head to songs that will suddenly feel brand new.

In the meantime, we’ll be watching this particular stream on repeat for the next 48 hours and you should too.