History was made on Sunday 2nd May as 5,000 concertgoers gathered under the Big Top at Liverpool’s glorious Sefton Park. They were there to experience the UK’s first concert with no face masks and no social distancing in thirteen months. It is the third of three Pilot events held in Liverpool between April 30th and May 2nd as part of the Events Research Programme.
The previous two days saw Bramley Moore Dock Warehouse host club event Circus. Here, the likes of Fatboy Slim and The Blessed Madonna played to partygoers. However, this night was a celebration of live music from some of the finest acts in the north of England. The lineup included headliners Blossoms, who hail from Stockport, Liverpool’s very own Zuzu, and The Lathums from Wigan.
Energy was high as attendees piled in. They had to take a COVID-19 lateral flow test and complete a health questionnaire the previous day to be admitted. They will have to take another test 5 days after the show too. Other entry requirements included being registered with a GP in the Liverpool City Region and living in the region.
A surreal atmosphere in Liverpool
The smell of overpriced lager drifted through the Big Top and indie-rock anthems blared through the speakers in between sets. 5000 voices singing along to Arctic Monkeys and Pulp reverberated through the park, as they waited for the bands. Banners popped up every so often on the screens either side of the stage, giving people the option to wear a mask if they felt uncomfortable. But very few people did, as the vast majority relished the opportunity to get back to normality.
For the past 13 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has halted live music and club events. So for many young people in Liverpool, this was their first experience of a night out in the city. Students Nicky Scott and Joe Newman from Manchester, who moved to Liverpool to study said they were “gassed for their first proper night out”.
Blossoms fans Amy Judge and Sophie Whittle, both from Walton, Liverpool, expressed their excitement at being part of the event. Amy exclaimed she was “on cloud nine”. Sophie said she had “felt quite anxious before going in”. But once she got to the Big Top she “felt like everything was back to normal”.
“One small step for scousers…”
Scouse songstress Zuzu was first onstage and received a hero’s welcome as she began the set with ‘Get Off’. Dressed in leopard print and leather, and wielding a guitar, she commanded the crowd like a true rock star. “One small step for scousers…” she declared to resounding cheers. Blasting through a selection of her hits including ‘What You Want’ and ‘Skin and Bone’, Zuzu showed off her musical talent and charisma, asking: “Are you gonna dance with me?”. Before her final tune ‘All Good’, she emotionally exclaimed “This means everything to me”. Her charm clearly resonated with the audience. It is safe to say she will have gained an army of new fans that night.
The Lathums were up next. Lead singer Alex Moore, in a fur coat, told concertgoers he had bought a new Telecaster just for the occasion. The Wigan band’s setlist of guitar-driven songs massively appealed to the energetic crowd. Halfway through, security were already handing out cups of water. Their slower-paced 2020 single ‘All My Life’ was a magical moment in the set, with Moore playing acoustic guitar solo. The crowd seemed to know all the words and girls on shoulders swayed their arms in time. “You’re a lovely bunch…it’s a nice first gig to come back to, this” he said, visibly moved. The electrifying Last Shadow Puppets-esque ‘Foolish Parley’ followed, sending the spectators back into a frenzy.
University of Liverpool student and The Lathums fan Megan Pinfield, originally from Birmingham, said she had “missed going to gigs”. She described the crowd as “pretty full on” but “exciting” to be part of.
The main act take to the stage
Anticipation built as people crowded around the stage for headliners Blossoms. The Stockport 5-piece opened with ‘Your Girlfriend’, the funky lead single from their latest album Foolish Loving Spaces. Frontman Tom Ogden exuded confidence, swaggering about the stage in a 70s-style suit and announcing: “You’re gonna have the best night you’ve had for a very long time”. Their set combined old favourites such as ‘Getaway’ and ‘Honey Sweet’ with their newer material, receiving rapturous applause.
Like many bands, Blossoms’ 2020 tour was cut short due to the pandemic. Later in the set, Ogden told the audience that the last gig the band played was also on a Sunday (in Bournemouth), before breaking into ‘Sunday Was a Friend of Mine’.
The group even added a Beatles cover to their set for the Liverpudlian audience, harmonising to ‘Paperback Writer’. In between songs, Ogden made sure to give a shout out to each individual band member, encouraging the audience to applaud their talents. Debut single ‘Blow’ went down a treat, with Ogden invoking the crowd to sing along to the final chorus acapella.
They then played ‘My Favourite Room’, with Ogden wielding an acoustic guitar and telling the attendees that tonight, Sefton Park’s Big Top is his “favourite room.” For this slower number, girls in the crowd could be seen balanced on their boyfriends’ shoulders and singing along. The band then left the stage and re-emerged moments later for an encore of ‘At Most a Kiss’ and their signature song, ‘Charlemagne’.
An unforgettable experience
“This has been a colossal ray of sunshine” Ogden declared to a room of cavorting concertgoers. And it truly was. I have to say, I didn’t realise how much I had missed sticky shoes and ringing ears until I got home. The hordes of happy faces leaving Sefton Park will never forget that night. I know I won’t.