Review: Blancmange – Roadmender, Northampton – 24/11/2018

We arrived in Northampton around 6.45pm, conveniently finding a car park directly opposite the venue. We joined the small queue into the venue a few minutes before “open doors” – which were opened promptly at 7pm.

A good mix of songs was playing over the sound system just to keep us well entertained before support act Jez Bernholz was due on stage.

I wasn’t sure if there was even going to be a support act, as I had not really looked to see if there would be, but assumed it would be the case. Bernholz was new to me. A very atmospheric sound. Very ambient. I liked what I heard. It’s not easy to keep hold of a crowd with that kind of sound, esp. when you are a support act. I give ALL support acts a good chance. I give them my time and want to listen to them thoroughly. But many can be arrogant asshats, spoiling the experience for others. I will NEVER understand ANYONE turning up early to a venue and then being thoroughly disrespectful to a support act by talking while they are performing. It is just beyond rude! This happened last night at the Roadmender with a lady to my right. She was obviously a big Blancmange fan (as it later transpired) and had probably seen Bernholz as a result a number of times already. But that is NO EXCUSE to talk loudly and within earshot to the audience around her. Have some damn respect! If you want to talk, go out to the f***ing bar and get out of earshot, FFS, you rude cow!

Thankfully she didn’t talk ALL THE WAY through his set, but she did for a good few minutes through the middle of it. I wanted so much to say something, but held my tongue. I certainly threw a few daggers in her direction though…not that she’d have noticed, probably, being deep in conversation and all.

Anyway, I did really enjoy Bernholz and will explore his music as a result. He and Neil have collaborated together as well, and Neil joined him at the end of his set to provide vocals on his final song. Here’s a little sample of Bernholz’s work from last night.

A short wait and Blancmange were on, starting with new album Wanderlust’s two opening tracks, Distant Storm and In Your Room. Both gems. In Your Room, in particular, an instant fave for me.

Neil Arthur seemed a little pent up to start with. There was a palpable “performance anxiety” evidently being felt by him. But for me personally, that did not in any way detract from enjoying the performance. He soon settled and became quite chatty between songs. Showing a lot of appreciation for a crowd very much enjoying the set and seeing Neil and co on the stage.

He worked his way through a solid set of great tunes both old and new. Other tracks from Wanderlust included I Smashed Your Phone, Not A Priority and the album title track.

Some from previous album, Unfurnished Rooms were also performed – What’s The Time? and Anna Dine.

The deadpan and glorious Last Night (I Dreamt I Had A Job) from 2016 release Commuter 23 was also given an airing.

Old favourites came in the form of What’s Your Problem from 1985’s Believe You Me album and several others from 1982 debut album Happy Families, including I Can’t Explain, I’ve Seen The Word, Living on The Ceiling – which saw a wonderful crowd sing-a-long which Neil recorded a bit of us singing by grabbing a guy’s phone from the crowd and recording us with it – and a wonderful encore of Waves.

They also performed a track of Neil Arthur’s collaboration with uber producer Benge (under the moniker Fader) called I Prefer Solitude (see clip below).

I really enjoyed this gig. His band played well, he sounded great vocally (despite him saying he was suffering a sore throat…it wasn’t much detectable to me).

I even managed to score myself a souvenir of the night by way of a gig promo poster, which Neil was very kind enough to sign.

I will be doing much more exploration of Blancmange’s musical history as a result of this gig, sinking my teeth (metaphorically, of course) into the back catalogue. And I plan to see them again in the not-too-distant future.

Thank you Jez, Neil and band for a great night. It was my first time seeing you, but it definitely won’t be the last!

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