Boston Manor Live Review: A little less talk, a little more action please
After their headline tour was rescheduled countless times thanks to everyone’s favourite C-word, Boston Manor finally got to play Manchester Academy 2 on Friday 11th February. The band originally hail from Blackpool, and so it was as close as they would get to a homecoming gig, with lead singer Henry Cox shouting out his family in the audience.
As expected, all you could see when looking across the top of the crowd was black box-dyed hair, the rock-on/horn hand gesture, and eyes wide with beer and testosterone.
Boston Manor were supported by Jools and Movements, and I was surprised to see that, unusually, the crowd were already fans. There was a mosh pit in place by the middle of Movements’ set, and I counted eight crowd surfers who were plucked from the front barrier during their 30-minute slot alone. I’m not sure if this is because the support acts were announced months ago (way back on the 427th rearrangement of the tour) and so ticket-holders had time to acquaint themselves, or if this was simply perfect judgement on the part of whoever booked the supports.
Boston Manor themselves were, I am afraid to say, a bit of a disappointment. I really love their music and so was excited to see them live, amongst other fans, and perhaps to edge into a mosh pit if the fancy took me, but it was quite an average gig with a lot of wasted time and a lot of wasted words.
They began with ‘Everything Is Ordinary’, the song which opens their album GLUE – which the tour was originally supposed to be promoting. They then played a few songs from previous releases, like ‘England’s Dreaming’ and ‘Flowers in the Dustbin’ from their album, Welcome to the Neighbourhood, and ‘Desperate Pleasures’, taken from their 2021 EP Desperate Times, Desperate Pleasures. You can see a full setlist here.
They also played quite a few older songs, such as ‘Burn You Up’ and ‘Laika’ from their 2016 EP Be Nothing. This wouldn’t usually be a problem, but Henry kept talking about those fans who had been around when that EP was released, directing his words multiple times at only those who were Boston Manor stans pre-2017. As someone who *only* discovered the band in 2020, I felt a bit slighted by this, not expecting to be assaulted by the whole new fan vs. ‘true’ fan argument at a gig – especially not by the lead singer himself!
In fact, Henry speaking was one of the main issues with the gig for me. He spoke a lot. Like, a LOT. He kept repeating the same sentiment about the pandemic finally being over and it being great to be touring again, which is all well and good but doesn’t need to be said more than once. He also did a long spiel about how Boston Manor had met the supporting bands, and how much they loved them, even dedicating a song to them. Again, all well and good but honestly I’m not sure how appropriate being all lovey-dovey on stage is when you’ve got a sweaty, riled-up crowd eagerly waiting to mosh…
The worst was his repeated attempts to create energy in the crowd, which did the opposite and actually decreased the energy. He kept saying he wanted the gig to be as rowdy as possible, and actually asked the crowd to be rowdier on multiple occasions. He even asked for “as many crowd surfers as possible“, wanting to “make security work“. This all felt slightly artificial and embarrassing for me – surely if the band’s performance is good enough, the crowd will get rowdier as an organic consequence?
At the start of the gig, Henry even said that he expected the gig to get quite unruly, asking fans to make a ‘T’ sign with their arms (like what you’d do for a ‘time-out’ in Tig back in primary school) if things got too much. This was a kind gesture and I think would have made people feel more comfortable knowing there was an out if things got too rowdy.
But they didn’t really. Rowdiness definitely could have been achieved, if Henry had spoken far, far less, and the gaps between songs weren’t hours long.
It’s hard to keep up the energy levels if you’re forced to emerge from a rock-fuelled haze by a two minute lull in the music whilst the band do… what? Tune their instruments again? Tell each other how much they appreciate each other? I fully appreciate that the band needs to occasionally take a second to have a sip of beer, or to attune themselves to each other, or even just to give their arms and voices a break. But I genuinely think Boston Manor could have played at least three more songs if there had been a little less talk and a little more action.
The songs themselves were great, exactly as expected – loud guitars, heavy drums and raspy vocals are always better live – but the performance aspect was a little lacking. For a start, the lighting only illuminated the middle of the stage, meaning you couldn’t really see the two guitarists, brothers Mike and Dan Cunniff, and the band members didn’t perform, just simply played their instruments. Apart from Henry, who did lots of talking, of course. I would have appreciated even just a little headbanging, or maybe for him to briefly share a moment on the mic with Ash Wilson on backing vocals.
Perhaps this review is a little too scathing – it was a decent gig and I did get to see some of my favourite songs live. But I’m not sure it’s one I will really look back on fondly, or re-watch videos from to remember the ~vibe~. I think it is best forgotten so I can go back to enjoying Boston Manor in my headphones, where they perform better than on stage.