The band walks onto the stage accompanied by the mighty Rainbow’s Since You’ve Been Gone. Since they’ve only really been gone about four years, you’d be forgiven for thinking this reunion tour is a bit optimistic. As Mark Morriss states later in the gig, if the crowd wants another album they should first buy their last two.

But the reception they get throughout this gig shows there is an appetite still for The Bluetones. In fact, I’d be hard-pushed to remember another gig filled with such affection and warmth.

I was an early adopter, having bought their first single (a blue vinyl copy of Slight Return) through the NME back in 1995. I saw them live on numerous occasions in the next couple of years but kinda fell out of love with the band once my student days were done. Nothing personal. It was me not them.

I fell in love again at The Ritz in Manchester.

The set was peppered with belters from the first album Expecting to Fly – from the opener Are You Blue Or Are You Blind? to the mighty Bluetonic. Fifth song of the evening was my particular favourite. The Fountainhead is a delicate folksy beaut, showcasing some lovely guitar work from Adam Devlin. This band is on form and obviously enjoying playing together again. Eds Chester’s drumming is slightly heavier than I remember but all the better for that. And Big Mo, Mark Morriss, is as compelling a front man as I remember from the mid-90s – probably more so. He’s self-assured without being cocky, his voice is as good as it’s ever been and he’s bloody hilarious. A hoot.

One of the benefits of having less knowledge of the later stuff was that I was able to hear without nostalgia clouding the judgement – and tunes like After Hours (Squeeze meets ELO) made me realise just what I’d been missing.

The penultimate song was almost the highlight of the night. Early in the set we’d been treated to the first couple of lines of East 17’s Stay Another Day but nothing could prepare us for their cover of Dennis Waterman’s I Could Be So Good For You. Wallop. That’s a proper crowd pleaser right there.

In the gap between the main set and the encores, the crowd had started on the singalong bit of If… – The Bluetones’ Hey Jude, if you like. Well, they (we) were in full voice again as it was played as the finisher. And when it finished, we kept going. And they started up again. We didn’t want the night to end. I don’t think they did either.

Don’t bet against another (slight) return in 2016.

Words and images by Chris Payne

To read Chris Payne’s interview with The Bluetones’ Adam Devlin, click here