The Blinders @ Castle and Falcon 23 October 2018

The Blinders @ Castle and Falcon 23 October 2018The Blinders @ Castle and Falcon 23 October 2018The Blinders @ Castle and Falcon 23 October 2018The Blinders @ Castle and Falcon 23 October 2018The Blinders @ Castle and Falcon 23 October 2018

There is a full moon tonight.  It is eerily bright and low in the sky, and on my journey to the venue it seems to be at the end of every street I drive along until I reach the Castle and Falcon.  It feels like a guiding light.  The gig is sold out: no room at the inn.  Having already seen The Blinders play in smaller venues over the last twelve months, there is a sense that the planets are now aligning and this is their time; they have divine right, they have divine right.

This headline tour is on the back of their scorching debut album ‘Columbia’, released last month.  It feels like these performances are for those in the audience who missed the pre-album tour in February, so I didn’t expect there to be any deviation from the previous shows.  What I didn’t fully appreciate is how truly blistering the band have become, and how their energy reserves seem endless.

The set list is almost the same as February, with other reviewers levelling criticism at the band for this, when really it is exactly what is needed right now.  The main change is ‘Swine’ has been moved from the second song to the middle and ‘Brave New World’ moved from the middle to the third song.  From ‘Hate Song’ on to the end of the set, it is the same, except for dropping ‘Murder at the Ballet’ altogether.  I think the slight change helps the flow of the set enormously: there is no let up, no time to catch your breath.  From the opening bass riff the crowd is bouncing and by the middle of that first song, ‘Gotta Get Through’, the mosh pit has exploded, with bodies flying everywhere.  The rampant ‘L’etat C’est Moi’ follows and now the audience are screaming along: “We fuckers, we two bit hookers. I’ve got divine right, I’ve got divine right”.  The overwhelming response sends chills down my spine, as if a year of telling everyone how good this band is, is vindicated.

Hearing the lyrics being sung by the audience throughout the set reminds me of my interview with them in January 2018, when I mention how Arctic Monkeys’ early gigs had everyone singing along despite not having a record out at that time.  There really does feel that same level of excitement at a Blinders gig.  Even the final line of the spoken ‘Free the Slave’ has the room shouting: “Who the fuck would want that?” right on cue.

The tempo only really drops for the glorious ‘Rat In A Cage’ and the pre-album release ‘Ramona Flowers’, but instead of thumping it is pulsating, throbbing… hynotising.  Tom screams, Tom writhes, Tom flexes.  He is magnetic, mesmerising, compelling.  The black make up applied to his eyes at the beginning of the night has all but been removed by the sweat pouring from his brow.  This band doesn’t just get up and play, you feel that they are giving everything of themselves; this is not an occupation, it is essential.

Charlie and Matt are solid throughout as always, with eyes focussed and glaring into the crowd.  The audience reaction lifts them, visibly, and they are tighter and stronger than ever.  I even caught Matty smiling once… but not Charlie, never Charlie.  Even at the end, he just turns and is gone with a wave.

On previous shows Tom comes off the stage during ‘Swine’ or ‘Brutus’ or both, to stand in the crowd; tonight, his feet do not touch the floor because when he moves towards the front row, arms lift him up and carry him off into the heart of the crowd.  Despite him screaming: “There is no hope”, it’s pretty clear, there is.  It might be raw and brutal, but there is hope.  These three young men from Doncaster are inspirational; they give hope to the old punks in the room to show us we weren’t wrong, and they ignite a new young crowd to be passionate and political and pro-active.  Is it obvious yet?  I fucking love this band.

The set ends with both barrels, ‘Et tu’ and ‘Brutus’:  Boom!  Boom!  The mosh pit is in a frenzy.  The whole room is fixated.  I am sober but later I have no memory of those two songs at all.  I either blacked out or went astral travelling, because when I come to, the lights are out and white noise fills the room as Charlie and Matt leave the stage.  The darkness and white noise cut to Tom in a spotlight alone with his telecaster.  The opening chords he plays lead us into ‘Orbit’.  After forty minutes of an assault of pounding ear-splitting decibels there is calm, and everybody listens to the melancholy track that closes the album.  The drop in dynamics and the brave choice of ending on a quiet song, pays off: the calm after the storm… a moment of reflection.  It is a beautiful moment when Tom’s stage persona is removed for a brief moment when he laughs to himself singing the line: “Fuck you” to the adoring fans, before continuing, “…and fuck me, and fuck the salmon of Alaska”.  We collectively hang on every word.  It’s breath-taking.

With each successive Blinders tour there is a feeling that it will be an “I was there moment”.  That takes something really special.. but most of all it takes years of back breaking work and commitment.  This should not be under estimated: The Blinders work harder than anyone to make each show absolutely the most memorable event you will ever see.  It is no accident.  I feel at times that the hard work is starting to take its toll and Tom’s vocals are almost shredded at the end of the night.  I hope someone close to the band are taking note of this, as the stresses on the voice can be highly damaging if not looked after.  Of course, it sounds stunning, screaming guitar and a screaming voice, but seriously do not damage those vocal chords Tom.  It’s not like they can be replaced (like the countless guitar strings that are broken throughout the show)… okay now I sound like a concerned dad, so I’ll wrap this up.

It is a delight to see The Blinders in this bigger venue, with a packed room.  The energy on the floor now reflects the intensity on the stage, but no matter what the venue, and how small the audience, I have never seen The Blinders give anything but their absolute all.  They are the new standard, other bands need to watch and learn.  I’m happy for them and also fucked off that I can’t get close to them anymore.

Oh and now buy their album.  It’s called ‘Columbia’ on Modern Sky.


Gotta Get Through
L’etat C’est Moi
Brave New World
Where No Man Comes
Free the Slave
I Can’t Breathe Blues
Hate Song
Rat In a Cage
Ramona Flowers
Et Tu

Reviewer: Alan Neilson

Photographer: Chris Bowley 

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