By Flossie Palmer, Features Editor
Two years after releasing tickets for their UK headline tour, named after their 2018 album Welcome to the Neighbourhood, Boston Manor, Blackpool’s new-rock heroes, dominated the stage in an explosive return to live music since the Covid-19 pandemic. Now aptly re-named Welcome Back To The Neighbourhood, Boston Manor launched their tour by reigniting their fans’ love for their music with an energetic and powerful performance, making the long wait for live viewing in what the lead singer, Henry Cox, coined the ‘most rescheduled modern rock tour in UK history’ all worthwhile.
The show began with the first support act, Jools, a noise-rock band from Leicester who pride themselves on utilising art to make a political statement and call out societal inequalities. On paper, their intentions are fresh and invigorating, but on stage this fell rather flat. The performance felt disparate for their 45-minute slot, with the lead vocalist, Mitchell Gordon, songwriter Kate Price and guitarist Ellis Crowson appearing to be the only band members invested in the performance. Gordon’s stage presence felt rather overexaggerated, and Price’s short on-stage cameo, shimmying and seemingly miming the lyrics to ‘Cross-Dressing in a Freudian Slip’ felt rather awkward to watch.
As much as Jools’ musical intentions are refreshing and their political messages hugely important, I wanted to like them much more than I actually did. Mitchell Gordon’s vocals were disruptive, and the lyrics barely audible through the microphone, overshadowing the actually commendable modern-rock backing music. It is fair to say that while Jools harbours huge potential for the UK rock scene, their current music remains rather experimental and divisive among live audiences.
Following Jools’ perplexing performance, Movements, a pop-punk, ‘sad boi’ emo band from Southern California, completely stole the stage. Already popular with most of the audience, Movements performed songs both old and new, including their most listened to track on Spotify, ‘Daylily,’ which had everyone singing along in an emotional catharsis, setting up the atmosphere perfectly for Boston Manor’s explosive entrance.
Leaving the sad and melancholic tones of Movements behind, Boston Manor immediately dominated the stage with a resurgence in energy and volume. The stage remained vacant for a few minutes, a jarring, liminal space in which the lights flickered and the backing music reverberated around the industrial venue of Marble Factory, only the band’s ski-masked face logo highlighted in red staring threateningly into the anticipating crowd. Boston Manor then disrupted the atmospheric build-up with immediate action, emerging on-stage and launching straight into ‘Everything is Ordinary Now,’ a tribute to their return to live music after a two-year delay.
Throughout the performance, Boston Manor made the most of their communication with the audience. Between the band’s more toned-down performance of ‘Plasticine Dreams,’ which lit up the venue with dazzling white, utopian lights, conveying the false promises of the music industry, lead vocalist Henry Cox encouraged interludes of interaction with the crowd. Cox shared stories of the band’s most-played venue in Bristol, The Hatchet Inn, located opposite the O2 in the city centre, dedicating two of their older songs to the fans who had stuck with them from the very beginning till now.
Cox also encouraged those more nervous about the return to live concerts to get involved with moshing, implementing a sensible ‘T’ for timeout hand signal for if anyone became injured in amongst the chaos, which would help security intervene quickly and put the show on hold. This proved reassuring and largely effective, as most of the crowd were raring to go, launching themselves into a vigorous mosh-pit during Boston Manor’s ‘rowdiest song’ according to Cox, ‘You Me & the Class War’.
After announcing that 180 people had crowd-surfed at once during their Leeds show the night before, Cox put Bristol up to the challenge. Although the numerical results are yet to be released, Bristol didn’t fail to disappoint, with various limbs and shoes visibly flying above the heads of the crowd for the majority of the performance. One fan was even lifted to eye-level with Henry Cox in the centre of the crowd, reciting the lyrics directly back to him with their fingers raised in a heart-shaped formation.
Despite the performance being rescheduled from the original venue of SWX, which suffered fire damage a week before reopening in July 2021, Boston Manor seemed even better suited to the venue of Marble Factory. The industrial, gloomy atmosphere perfectly reflected the dark and raw quality of their music, while the high tin ceilings projected every sound with a deafening roar.
The performance was also as much of a light-display as it was a concert. Each stylistic lighting choice perfectly and uniquely complimented the song being performed; as Cox sang the wildly romantic lyrics of their new track, ‘Let The Right One In,’ golden sun symbols flickered above the crowd.
Of course, Boston Manor’s set wouldn’t have been complete without their most famous song, ‘Halo’, making its long-awaited live performance debut since the pandemic during the show’s finale. With every member of the audience singing along, Boston Manor concluded their successful return to Bristol, exceeding the expectations of a crowd who had loyally waited to see them, and walked away more than satisfied.
Featured image: Flossie Palmer
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