The Blinders @ The Sunflower Lounge,16 February 2018

The Blinders @ The Sunflower Lounge,16 February 2018The Blinders @ The Sunflower Lounge,16 February 2018The Blinders @ The Sunflower Lounge,16 February 2018The Blinders @ The Sunflower Lounge,16 February 2018The Blinders @ The Sunflower Lounge,16 February 2018The Blinders @ The Sunflower Lounge,16 February 2018The Blinders @ The Sunflower Lounge,16 February 2018The Blinders @ The Sunflower Lounge,16 February 2018

When you are a lion on stage and things go wrong, it is impossible to turn into a mouse.  By that I mean, if your onstage persona is a straightforward, nice mousy guy and your guitar stops working, you can have a casual chat with the audience, laugh about it, pick up a working guitar and carry on.  If you are a ferocious animal and no sound comes out of the amp; or the guitar has not been tuned correctly; or the mike keeps feeding back; or you just dropped your last plectrum; or your guitar lead is broken; or the bass player knocks over a pint glass and it smashes onto the stage; or you slip on a wet floor and fall when you jump off the bass drum… you have to not let the facade fall.. you really have to make sure the show goes on and you keep roaring.

Lead singer of The Blinders, Thomas, is that lion; his transformation from offstage all round good guy to an onstage blur of sweat, make up and wild abandonment is truly awe inspiring.  There are not many artists who have that switch, so self-conscious or full of self-doubt are they, but Thomas has no doubts and he does not allow the mask to slip tonight, despite these onstage technical problems that if I am honest, probably only I noticed.  But I guess that is my job.

The Blinders have filled the Sunflower Lounge tonight.  This is the first sell out show here I have witnessed, and it is clear straight away that the band needed a bigger venue.  Not only for the additional audience members they could have included, but because the small stage and long narrow room does not give Thomas, Charlie and Matt a broad enough canvas to express themselves fully.

The band walk through the crowd from the dressing rooms at the back of the venue onto the stage to the sound of Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’ and I suddenly see the connection with Thomas’s use of make up; whereas Brown carefully applied his, Thomas smears his across his eyes and down his cheeks like black war paint.  For the next forty five minutes there is a sonic attack on all fronts as The Blinders batter the audience with songs from their singles from last year and new unreleased tracks too.  There is no let up and when Thomas loses his guitar sound due to a broken lead during opening song “Gotta Get Through”, rhythm section Charlie and Matt keep pumping and grooving away.  The crowd, made up of an interesting blend of ages and not just blokes, barely notice.  This is in part due to Thomas’s ability to hold their interest with his stage presence and by just screaming with no sense of irony: “Gotta get through, gotta get through, gotta gotta” until the lead is fixed by their guitar tech, who probably thinks the leads would last longer if he didn’t keep jumping into the crowd with it still plugged in.

There are still problems and the guitar is replaced, only for it moments later to be passed back during “Swine”, possibly due to tuning errors and Thomas vents his fury at the hapless roadie.

Having witnessed The Blinders play last year I can see that these glitches are having a negative impact on the show, because Thomas’s mind is partly focused on tech issues and not wholly his own performance.  Therefore the glorious Wonka monologue during “Swine” loses a little of its usual power.

 

It is strange though because lesser bands would crumble under this kind of pressure, whereas The Blinders’ energy levels feed off the anger from having their mood tainted by things out of their control.  Charlie and Matt have piercing stares that would seemingly turn to stone anyone on the receiving end; but this is just normal for them.  Thomas screams in frustration and hits his guitar strings even harder than before.  It’s a wild performance but looser than I think they would be truthfully happy with.  The crowd are transfixed throughout and never take their eyes off the band; the last couple of years have not been wasted and the three men have honed their onstage image to perfection.  Thankfully Thomas returned to wearing his schoolboy grey trousers instead of the Jagger stripes from previous nights on this tour.

Highlights are the Doors-esque ‘Ramona Flowers’; the divine ‘L’état, C’est Moi’; the brutal ‘Et tu Brutus’ segueing into new song ‘Berlin Wall’, which sees the mosh pit take over the entire floor with a front row of petite teenagers and photographers sent careering with every onslaught from behind.

The new tracks ‘Free the Slave’ and ‘Where No Man Comes’ are a sign of even better things to come, along with ‘Hate Song’ which is the bastard son of the union between Killing Joke’s ‘Wardance’ and The Wombles’ ‘Wombling White Tie and Tails’.  Seriously.  If this is a sign of what is coming on their forthcoming album it will be a powerful debut.  It is an immediate crowd pleaser; there is no uncomfortable unease about new material here, it fits into the set smoothly.

Despite the multitude of technical problems which initially dampened the bands normally faultless performance, tonight is still an unmissable show – The Blinders just kept fighting on, knowing the power they have to send the crowd into a frenzy.

This tour lasts for another couple of weeks and has sold out on numerous dates already, with extra shows having to be added to keep up with demand.  I had thought the feature and interview we did with the band when the tour started would help promote tonight’s gig, but it had already sold out anyway.  With only ten guest tickets allocated, we are honoured indeed to be included.  It is a no brainer to grab a ticket for one of remaining nights this time around; they won’t be in this size of venue on the next tour.

And I can’t wait for that and the debut album, hopefully later in the year; it will be formidable.

Review and images: Alan Neilson

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