LIVE: Boston Manor @ The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes

By Yasmin Brown

If anyone had any reservations as to whether Boston Manor would incite as much carnage post-pandemic as they did pre-, tonight quashes them all. Now back in one of the last venues they played in the distant past of 2019, the chaotic energy of set opener ‘Everything is Ordinary’ sends fans in this tiny, sweaty, cesspit into a frenzy from the get go. 

There are no reservations here anymore. There is just mayhem.

From front to back, fans all but drown out front man Henry Cox’s perfectly executed vocals, screaming along emphatically to every song – even to ‘Carbon Mono’, a track that is, at this point, barely a week old – limbs in the air, bodies hurled at one another in a desperate attempt to truly feel this music for the first time… ever.

And it really does feel that way. We’ve been listening to songs from ‘GLUE’ for the past 15 months, but each performance from that record feels just as novel as ‘Carbon Mono’. Boston Manor are a band whose very existence is intensified on stage, and it’s not until you hear these songs in a live environment that you realise their full, phenomenal potential. ‘You, Me & the Class War’ in particular lends itself to an increasingly angry chant of the song’s repetitive bridge before hitting its climax (which comes early as the crowd impatiently sing ahead of Cox’s instruction), at which point, try as you might, you’ll never discern one body from another as the whole venue turns into the mosh pit we’ve all been dreaming of since March 2020. It. Is. Glorious. 

Part of Boston Manor’s real beauty, however, is their versatile songwriting ability, and the only reason we have enough energy to really lose ourselves in ‘You, Me & the Class War’ is due to the emotional respite we’re offered in the form of its album mate, ‘On a High Ledge’. A song that stems from the harrowing prevalence of male suicide, it’s especially important now, in a time where mental health has suffered so greatly in our country, and it’s an importance that seems widely understood by tonight’s crowd. For the first and only time this evening, all you can hear is the five members on stage, Cox’s celestial vocals made even more powerful if you take a second to just close your eyes and breathe in this special moment. 

It doesn’t last, of course – this is a Boston Manor show after all – and the rest of the show is as mental as you might expect (and hope for), with a setlist made up of old favourites that feel like coming home, as well as new loves. The band are red from the heat and grins sit proudly on each of their faces, their aggressive facade falling away without resistance as they look down (albeit only slightly from this small pub stage) at the sold out scene before them, playing together in perfect synergy as if they’d never been apart. What an incredible thing to be back here in one of the last venues they played before Covid, and to be met with such a warm welcome – so warm, in fact, that even those standing back from the depths of the pits are happily bathing in their own sweat.

At just 13 songs, it’s over far too soon, and as Boston Manor embark on a new venture – one that starts with ‘Carbon Mono’ and ends who knows where – you can’t help but feel equal parts euphoria and disappointment, if only because of that niggling sense that ‘GLUE’ deserved so much more than the past year has allowed. For now, though, we choose to be grateful that we’re allowed even this small opportunity to enjoy this record in all its grimey, beer drenched glory. Boston Manor are back, baby – and we’re delighted to be along for the ride.