Last night Boston Manor presented a livestream show direct from the Empress Ballroom, slap bang in the centre of their hometown of Blackpool. It was absolutely wonderful. This is exactly why it was such a special show and will serve as a poignant moment in the band's career for years to come.
All photos by Theodore Swaddling
Where you’re from has more effect on you than you realise, even if you don’t believe it. For Boston Manor, their hometown of Blackpool beats through the heart of everything they do. Inspiring not just the storytelling that exists within their songs but also the tireless work ethic and resilience that has helped them become one of British rock music’s most exciting and eccentric exports. Though through everything they’ve done over the years they’ve never played a proper hometown show. So with the world on hold and all bets off the table, it seemed like the perfect time to change that and pay tribute to the place that has given them so much. And they were going to do it in style.
Despite the fact that the original plan to record this set at the iconic Blackpool Tower fell through, which the band compare to when they were first starting out and struggling to find anywhere that would actually put them on, the Empress Ballroom holds just as much character and sentimentality for what this show represents. From its vast and daunting dancefloor to the awe-inspiring roof that towers over you, glistening in gold and littered with beautiful curves and swirls aplenty, it’s a testament to finding beauty in the most unexpected places. You just have to look a little bit deeper.
Standing in a circle and facing each other, the band are almost dwarfed by the grandiose nature of the room they are set up in. Yet the moment that the crunching electronics of ‘Everything Is Ordinary’ fill the silence and Henry declares, “Welcome to Blackpool” with a sneer, they immediately feel at home. Hearing such a corrosive and callous sound reverberating around a room as elaborate as this is something you don’t get to see everyday, and you can immediately tell the band are relishing in the opportunity.
They are also relishing the chance to play tracks from their latest album ‘GLUE’, released back in May, for the first time proper as well, as the swift and savage one-two of ‘Ratking’ and ‘Only1’ show. Juxtaposed against the searing grit of ‘Flowers In The Dustbin’ and dreamy ‘England’s Dreaming’, two of the many highlights on ‘18’s ‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood', the band’s setlist choices tonight serve not just a reminder of the breadth and boundless energy of their music but also the confidence that has blossomed from them aiming to forge a sound that is uniquely them.
A moment of important poignancy follows as Henry pauses to shout out Samaritans and remind people to continue to look after themselves and their mental health in these difficult times as the winter months start rolling in before the haunting patter and harsh reality of ‘On A High Ledge’, takes the breath straight from your lungs. Placed next to the vicious howls of, ‘This ain’t love, this is a class war’ that he exudes on ‘You, Me & The Class War’, it’s enough to send shivers coursing up the spine. As a stirring ‘Playing God’ and utterly pummelling ‘Funeral Party’ pass by in a flash, it becomes more apparent how special it is to have the band playing these songs in the very place that inspired them in the first place. These are lyrics written about the dark corners and stark realities of this misunderstood town that are being crooned at the very centre of it whilst being transmitted around the world, and that’s as personal and poignant as you’re going to get.
As the gooey ‘Plasticine Dreams’ gives way to an absolutely monolithic closing crescendo of ‘Halo’, with Henry shouting out the FY1 postcode with chest-thumping pride, everything in the world feels in perfect harmony, even just for a split second. Though this passionate, powerful and polished performance was begging for a hot and heavy crowd to be on the receiving end, that doesn’t stop the whole event from feeling incredibly important. It’s a reminder to have pride in the place that raised you and not be afraid to let it inspire you as you make your way through life. To not give up on your dreams, even when it feels like the world is trying its best to push you down and stop you from realising them. To never say never and to make the most of the moments we have to truly feel free in a time where they are becoming more few and far between. It’s a demonstration of how powerful music can be in its purest form and presented in the most perfect way.
As they leave the stage, the lights dim and silence returns to the ballroom once more, one thing is clear. This might be the first and last show that the band will play this year, but it’s one that will live long in the memory and, most importantly, legacy of Boston Manor and beyond.
You can buy a ticket to watch the performance on demand from right HERE