The Boo Radleys, The Moth Club, London, 30th October 2021
The Boo Radleys are back, Back, BACK! Having dissolved in 1998, with songwriter Martin Carr heading off for a solo career, the band faded away. And that was such a shame, as they had been more inventive than their peers. Poppy, catchy, beautiful vocals, but always willing to take a sharp turn to the left with no warning. Shoegaze, dream pop, dub, grunge, pure pop, and general weirdness. They were, like another famous Scouse band, quite fab.
But 23 years on since their last gig, they are back, sans Martin. I was initially skeptical - coming back without Martin seemed foolhardy, but the five new songs they have released so far this year have been superb. Varied, catchy and reminding you what a great singer Sice is and how talented Tim and Rob on bass and drums are too - something overlooked back in the day as focus went on Martin's genius.
Tonight's gig is the 6th in a short run, though a confused and tired Sice variously claims through the show they have played six gigs, then been on tour for six weeks, then six months and six years....age is a terrible thing!
Their circumstances are somewhat diminished, playing the tiny Moth Club. Moth stands for the Memorable Order of Tin Hats and is an ex-servicemen's club turn hipster Hackney venue and bar. But while the venue is small, the love is big and so is their sound.
Any concerns I had dissipate immediately as they launch into the magnificent Barney (...and me) from their epic Giant Steps album, clearly a fan favourite. It's stupendous. Sice has been conducting audience research about which is the fans' favourite album through the tour, and reveals Wake Up!, their smash hit breakthrough album is the fans' least, as they launch into Find The Answer Within. I actually quite like it, but less so the ubiquitous hit...more of that later...
The fans are out in force and there is mad, excited bouncing down the front as old gig t-shirts have been dug out of the bottom drawers for an unexpected rebirth. One couple are having the best night ever, jumping wildly, arms akimbo, which is just lovely.
The set progresses with a smattering of songs from albums including Giant Steps, Wake Up, C'mon Kids, Kingsize and the Every Heaven EP. Nothing from Everything's Alright Forever, which is such a shame. The band claim they don't have the necessary pedals, so my tweet and shout for Lazy Day fall on deaf ears (probably damaged by overusing said pedals, back in the day).
The set admirably leans heavily on new material and rightly so. The six new songs are strong and brave - A Full Syringe and Memories of You is the happiest, catchiest song about euthanasia you will ever hear. You And Me sounds like Brotherhood-era New Order, and is all the better for it. I've Had Enough I'm Out, their latest release is great.
The show is stripped back, with a little black box (named Kevin) playing all keyboards, effects, horns and backing vocals, but the show never feels less than live. Sice is a great frontman, regaling the audience with TMI stories from the tour (they don't drink at the gigs these days, but head back to the hotel for a bottle of wine and watch Netflix in their pants...he claimed separately, but I am not convinced...).
Stand outs were Wish I Was Skinny, which is still beautiful, b-side The Finest Kiss, dedicated to Sice's wife Sarah who is in the audience (and who he nearly forgets to dedicate the song to - age is so pesky!). The Finest Kiss then segues into the dub intro of a magnificent Lazarus, which brings proceedings to an end. It's still enormous and epic and the whole club shakes.
They skip the leaving the stage shenanigans (too many steps back to their dressing room), so they head straight into the encore of new song All Along and the obligatory Wake Up Boo!. Sice again surveys the audience as to whether they really need to play this when they next tour - I shout no, as it's tired and it's been overplayed. But the majority disagree, and it's belted out by band and audience alike.
But Sice doesn't seem keen and I agree. The song is a moment in time. While it brings back many happy Britpop memories, I'd give the song the full syringe and instead, bring back Lazy Day, I Hang Suspended, C'mon Kids, Towards The Light and Skyscraper. And more great new songs, because the 2021 material tonight has been amazing.
I've pre-ordered the new album and can't wait to see them again. We head off for one beer, as it's date night. The clocks go back so we can have an extra hour in bed to recover...yay!, rather than boo!