A Tribute To The Blackout
The Blackout recently played their last ever Manchester show, as part of their farewell UK Tour. Mick Birchall looks at their career and how this night was their perfect send off.
OK, this was pretty emotional for me. I have been listening to The Blackout since I was an awkward teenager, their music has spoken to me in a great way and their live shows have made a powerful impact on my life. It’s because of The Blackout, that I’m sitting here writing these words, because seeing them live made me want to go to more gigs and their music encouraged me to speak passionately about my thoughts and opinions on music. Sure, the music they make is mostly about pretty juvenile things and they may have some cliched lines here or there, but the way they have presented themselves over the years has inspired me to go out and do things.
I first heard them when my brother brought home one of their CD’s, The Best In Town, which was pretty a pretty good record. Although, it was the way he spoke about their live performance and their on stage presence that made interested. To be honest though, I was listening to slightly different things, yeah I was in a nu-metal/alt-rock phase at the time, so I kinda put the album on the backburner, and payed no meither. Then, the band began to grow in popularity the song This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things was pretty much everywhere, and I thought it was a catchy tune, so I gave the rest of the album a chance. I have to say, I still remember being blown away, and it’s still to this day one of my favourite albums.
As I was getting into them, my brother bought me tickets to see them live in Liverpool and I am so glad I went, that gig ended being one of the best gigs I have ever been to. It was in a small venue called the Masque about a 10 minute walk from Lime Street Station. There were 3 other bands on the bill, I Spy Strangers, The Hickey Underworld and Young Guns (pre-debut album). It was the hottest gig ever, we were in the downstairs section of the club, there was no air-con and the amount of people in the room was heating the place up even quicker, also there was no water being passed around just adding to the frustration. The opening acts were great from what I recall, I also remember collapsing on the bar after Young Guns’ wall of death. After cooling off, The Blackout hit the stage and they were fantastic, fresh off the release of The Best In Town they were playing most of the songs from it, which was good because I hadn’t actually checked out anything else by them. They also threw in a few first album and EP songs which I looked up when I got home. This show was also where my first experiences of a mosh pits, crowd surfing and everything I have come to know and love about going to gigs. I remember singing along to every single lyric (that I knew), and yes the heat was still intense. This gig lead me into going to more gigs and learning more about the underground music scene, if this gig had of sucked, let’s put it this way… I’d be going to far less smaller gigs and I wouldn’t be writing this. It’s safe to say The Blackout changed my life for the better.
I have seen The Blackout on eight other occasions since then (including the recent farewell tour). They have been my favourite live band for the past six years and for good reason. Their sets have always lively and packed full of songs, that make you dance and sing, also having two awesome frontmen, Sean Smith and Gavin Butler, entertains the crowd whilst the band can just focus on playing the songs and doing them well. The banter that these two get away with is still brilliant, from Sean calling himself Jesus (at Hub Festival on the day the world was supposed to end, so why not make a joke of it) to turning the whole “sheep shagger” chant that they get, because they’re Welsh, into one big pun against the Manchester crowd on the Start The Party tour. Believe me a Blackout gig is always filled with laughs and fun. The band is brilliant too, consisting of Matthew Davies, James "Bob" Davies, Rhys Lewis, Gareth "Snoz" Lawrence making sure Sean and Gav always have something to work with, and their personalities infect every inch of their records and their live shows.
However the most important part of a Blackout show is the crowd. The crowds that The Blackout get consist of some of the nicest people I have ever met. Just genuine fans and people looking to have a good time. The Blackout themselves, are always humbled by their fans and never want to let them down. You can hear this anytime they played Hope (Scream it out Loud), the room is so loud from everyone singing and screaming along. Trust me when I say, I’ve never found a better or more consistent live act than The Blackout, I am really going to miss them.
Sorry for the long introduction but I think I needed to get across how much this band has done for me, they may not go down in history as a game changer of music as a whole but they certainly changed my life, with great live shows and being some of the most genuine artists of our time. Which leads me to their last show in Manchester on 25 March 2015, they came, one last time, to Manchester Academy 2. I’ve seen them in this room 3 times before-hand, so it was a pretty fitting final place to see them play in Manchester. Emotions ran high and the room was completely packed and it was in a moment I realised that this was the last time I’d get to see The Blackout.
The opening band, The Arcadia Verses, were OK, but nothing special, in all honesty, you could have put Iron Maiden there and it wouldn’t have mattered to me. They played their set which was enjoyable, but all the songs followed a very similar beat pattern, so all of their songs sound rather samey. Also there wasn’t much to them in terms of presence, there didn’t banter with the crowd, or interact much at all. I don’t think it’s 100% necessary to have this but it would have been nice. Maybe I was a little distracted by the emotion of the night, but I don’t think I was the only one, as there didn't seem to be much interest in the audience either. It was a nice attempt, but we needed someone a little more lively to open this show to get people warmed up, but alas, beggars can’t be choosers and it was an OK performance for what it was worth.
There was just such a range to the set, it was sure to please, if you’d been listening to them for 5 years or 5 days, it wouldn’t of mattered, it was just a great show of what they could do. I always say a great gig just comes down to a series of moments and that merge together perfectly and this was pretty much that, from the brilliant “Let’s Kill Gav” chant (long story) to the almost haunting moment when the band stopped playing and the crowd just sang the chorus to “The Storm” unassisted, that was one magical moment. I think everything just came together for them, the band was awesome, the crowd was amazing and sound was great, I don’t think anything needed to be changed.
As the set continued the crowd got better with songs like Said and Done and Spread Legs not Lies getting the crowd to move, and tunes such as Top of the World, Hope (Scream it out Loud), and Start the Party got everyone in the room singing, again I don’t know what it is but they’ve always managed to hit that blend of movement, sing-a-long and banter, there wasn’t too much of any and it helped make the night feel quite balanced. Speaking of banter, once again their smartarse quips helped carry the show. I mentioned the “Let’s Kill Gav” chant before, well I’ll explain... When The Blackout last played Manchester Academy 2, in October 2013, Gavin had to leave the stage towards the end of the night due to a neurological issue known as a hemiplegic migraine. The result of this being that Gavin couldn’t finish the show, nor the subsequent tour either. So when Sean called out for this chant “Let’s Kill Gav”, it was in reference to this. Yes, it was played for laughs in typical style, and anyone who was there that night, myself included, it was a nice little joke to throw in. Again, it just shows some of the banter these guys get away with.
Unfortunately, all great thing have to end and with the combination of I’m a Riot? You’re a Fucking Riot, ShutTheFuckUppercut, Higher and Higher and SOS (Save Our Selves), so too did this night. It was a fitting way for them to go, with one massive party of a show. With their fans still screaming for more. I can’t believe this is over, the party has ended and The Blackout has finished. Who knows maybe in a few years they might reform with a new tour, but then again… They are an amazing band, so I’ll shout it on here “We! Are! The Dynamite!”