Two helpings of Blancmange? Yes please.
I had been looking to seeing Blancmange for months. They were doing a very special night at my favourite club, Only After Dark (OAD), after their UK tour.
But whilst trying to Google the set list on Sunday, I only found out they were playing Milton Keynes that night. I am not a spontaneous person. I like to plan my gigs – but an opportunity like this was not to be missed and so we bought tickets online and drove to a pub I hadn’t been to in over 30 years!
It was a bit like going back in time. The pub hadn’t changed that much. I didn’t have good memories from it either. It was this very pub that someone opened up my handbag and stole my camera out of my bag. I had also once (when I was very young) taken an offer of a lift home after missing the last bus. The one person I knew in the car was dropped off first and I was left with a stranger who threatened to throw me over the railway lines. I never did anything like that again. He had really scared me. So the Crawford Arms does not hold good memories for me. Tonight I was hoping that all was going to change.
The support act was Ernest Herb. He was one guy with a keyboard but he had a lovely tone to his voice and could really play. It was a bit gappy in between songs and I don’t think he really knew about working the audience, but you can’t hide real talent and he was very talented.
Then for the main attraction. Blancmange came onstage headed up by Neil Arthur. This is a man with a great voice, a talent for song- writing and a great sense of humour.
After the first couple of tracks, someone in the audience shouted something out. He couldn’t hear so he asked them to repeat it. They embarrassingly said never mind, but he said ‘well it was long enough, give it another go’. This time we all heard the man say ‘play the track from Now that’s what I call music 3’. Neil said to him ‘well let us know when we play it won’t ya’ it was a brilliant comeback. He was great at working the crowd.
‘I can’t explain’ is such a great opening track – it has the energy and angst of punk with the electronic genius of kraftwerk. It is one of my personal favourites and it was fantastic to hear it live. It was followed up by ‘Feel me’, which is my personal all-time favourite. I love feel me (and had my original 12” signed afterwards) as the words and bassline just work so well together. And of course it has the immortal line… ‘put your hand in a pocket, a pocket of a friend. What do you feel? Tell me now?’. Classic.
He went on to sing the rest of the happy families’ album in full, including wasted and waves. This is the first time it has ever been done and it was fantastic. On ‘sad day’ he picked up the guitar himself and played. It was a beautiful moment. This album is so diverse and special. If you only know Blancmange for ‘Living on the ceiling’ then buy this and have a listen. It truly is a work of art.
He came back for his encore with the band saying they are the tribute band. ‘Tribute bands – they are so technically correct – but that’s not the point is it?’ I loved his sense of humour and the band looked like they were all having a great time. They finished with Blind Vision. It was an excellent night.
He came out to meet me and sign my stuff (including my much treasured ‘Some Bizarre album’ which the band manager told me is worth about £300 – I had no idea!).
They had some very special merchandise on sale – happy families’ playing cards, cups, t shirts, albums (that were only sold at the gigs!) and vinyl as well as posters of the event. The artwork for Blancmange has always been well thought through and it is reflected throughout the merchandise.
I feel very lucky to have been at this small gig in Milton Keynes, but do you know what the best thing is? I get to hear it all again at OAD on Saturday!