We have all been to Busted gigs before. Remember when you used to go and there was a sea of young girls queuing around the corner. Yes? Well those girls have grown up and a lot of them are standing in the same queue tonight to see Busted hit Bristol's O2 Academy. It is quite nice to see that there is still a fanbase after the dramatic change in Busted's sound on latest release Night Driver (No hate here, the album is wicked sick). In support are tribal poppers Natives. The last time we saw these guys was supporting a pretty unheard of band in the UK, MOTHXR. It was on a tiny stage to a small yet humble crowd. With the release of their epic album expected this summer how will they cope with a sold out show to a good few thousand people? Let's find out.
Opening with the unbelievably catchy first single from the new album 'Chasing Lions' the band have brought their plethora of drums and samples of the amazon rainforest to the big stage in style. The crowd are clearly, on the whole, unaware of who Natives are and everything is a little static, that is until frontman Jim Thomas makes everyone "get down" with him (literally get down on the floor like in a slipknot gig but less scary) while the band holds out before bursting into a very energetic final chorus. That is 101 right there for how to read and deal with your crowd, great frontmanship.
By the time 'Passion' kicks in the crowd are with the band wholeheartedly. Taking a quick crowd photo just before and promising it to whoever "goes crazy" with them offers a reward that seems to quickly invest more girls to dance like mad people. The song itself has been released and the band nail it live.
'Warpaint' starts a little flat vocally. This is quickly corrected half way through verse one. The musicianship here is what stands out and is spot on. Natives really encompass their tribal pop sound especially in the break section where multiple drums are played by 3 members of the band. Incredibly impressive on the whole.
'Stop The Rain' rounds off a well-refined set. The song itself proving exactly why an infectious melody goes down a treat even with those who may not be familiar with the music. The band feel a lot more solid as a unit than when we last saw them and have really upped their game... You kind of have to when you are main support on a Busted tour. If you aren't excited by this band who are pushing boundaries and merging genres then you need to check them out before they blow up.
Photo Credit: https://www.ohtib.uk/
No introduction is really needed for the boys in Busted. The majority of fans though are almost definitely here to hear the classics played and may be pleasantly surprised with the nice balance of new and old Busted they receive. However others may be here because the new album is absolute gold. Despite the change from early 2000's pop rock to the new wave of 80's style electro jams there are definitely songs for everyone in the bands set list, it just depends on how well they merge the two sounds and how well they can carry the new music without it falling flat with the old-schoolers.
'Kids With Computers' opens the set. The band seem to have really amped up their own energy reserves. The last time these guys hit Cardiff we were there to see it and the band seemed slightly deflated but these newer songs from Night Driver have put a smile on Charlie Simpson's face whilst Matt Willis and James Bourne have improved drastically in terms of vocals. The songs really suits the three piece as a whole and sees them all taking on new roles instrumentally whilst weaving their vocals in and around one another.
'Thinking Of You' sits well with the crowd, very well in fact. An uproar of fans join in with the band. It is the bands upcoming single and it is easy to see why. Single 'On What You're On' also goes down a storm. The crowd are dancing before the first vocal line kicks in. Bringing a saxophonist on stage to play the solo is also a nice touch.
It isn't until 'Air Hostess' hits that the crowd completely loses their s&*t at which point the band are almost drowned out by those ever-so-familiar old-school fans. It sounds as good as ever though and it may not merge perfectly but somehow it works and off the crowds reaction alone it sustains the songs inclusion.
Title track 'Night Driver' eases the crowd back down to normality. It pretty much highlights Charlie as the lead as much of the new album does and sees James and Matt take more of an instrumental/harmony role. Its one hell of a hip-shaker though and keeps the dancing going! 'Nerdy' is another old school track that produces a slightly less yet still thundering reaction from these fans. 'Without It' still has plenty of fans singing along too. The latest album had the potential to be a huge flop but it would seem that the fans have arrived in droves knowing every song in it's arsenal and 'Without It' is very much part of this. That saxophonist is back again with another solid solo. He can definitely come again! 'I Will Break Your Heart' is a nice bridge between Busted's difference in old and new material. A real feel-good singalong and guess what.. that saxophonist is back for more melting solos, what a guy.
The next part if the set is largely dominated by classics. 'Who's David' was and always will be a complete banger. With the band adding a little bit of the pianos and synths from their newer sound yet keeping those driving guitars to keep the older sound it takes a smooth transition into other oldies. Followed by 'Sleeping With The Lights On' the crowd are seriously pumped at this point. Matt asks "whos ready to sing" and christ the crowd are. Torches out on phone (modern day lighters), floodlights on to light up the crowd and roaring screams from everyone involved to throw this entire show back all those years.
Keeping up the momentum with 'Crashed The Wedding' it is surprising half the crowd haven't dropped dead with happiness. It somehow produces an even bigger reaction than 'Air Hostess' did. Soaring off this the band go straight into '3am' which at this point feels hugely guitar laden and drum heavy. It was always one of the gateway tracks for heavy rock fans who won't admit but loved it. You know who you are...
With the crowd on deaths door the band take their foot off the gas slightly playing 'New York' before kicking everyone in their dicks with 'Year 3000'. If the room was big enough and everyone wasn't shoulder to shoulder there definitely could have been a mosh pit or atleast a headbanging circle because 'Year 3000' really brought out the pop rockers. You definitely cannot comprehend the incredible amount of noise a Busted crowd can make until you jam them in a room like that of Bristol's O2. This rounded off the set before the encore took everyone's last morsels of energy...
Encore: Picking back up where they left off with 'What I Go To School For'. Funnily a fight very nearly breaks out towards the end of the song but is quickly ceased by the security alerted by the man himself, Matt Willis. The adjacent fans also shine their phone lights over the situation to make security aware. Back in the day the crowd definitely weren't as well looked after but this situation was quelled in military operation style! The song went completely off too.
'Coming Home' follows and seems a little out of place. It feels like more of a set opener rather than a near-closer It proves as a head-bobber and arm-waver rather than one of the "scream your lungs out" singalongs the latter half of the set has produced. It is still a tune nonetheless. 'Those Days Are Gone' rounds off the night and despite having a slower start it really showcases the entire band vocally.
Busted are back and arguably stronger than ever. Yeah they might not be packing out stadiums but Charlie seems more comfortable on these smaller stages, a size in which he has spent most of his career on, and it shows in terms of his overall energy and enthusiasm which in turn clearly lifts the band. Let's face it, it wasn't until he returned that Busted started over. Saying that, Matt and James really excelled and the new music suits them down to the ground. Busted have grown but are also obviously proud of the music that led them here. A set full of great music both old and new that saw this Bristolian crowd go absolutely nuts.
Photo Credit: Sam Neill Photo