Live Review: Busted, Leeds O2 Academy, 21.2.2017

It has been some time since Busted released an album and headed out on the road. The last time around, a large proportion of their fans were probably negotiating a minefield of pre-teen dramas- while some may have been even younger than that. This is to say that Busted were a band that sound tracked the childhood/early teenage years of a generation. That generation is now old enough to drive, drink, do adulating things like having and family and having jobs- yet the scenes in Leeds’ O2 Academy tonight demonstrate that the aforementioned generation are still delighted to get together and celebrate the tracks of their youth. This, as well as appreciating new and VERY long awaited music from Charlie, Matt and James.

As the sole support for this tour, Natives have an upper-hand on most support bands, because it means they take to the stage plenty of time after doors open, allowing the venue enough time to fill up providing a decent sized audience for the New Forest quartet. Natives inhibit a jungle/world music kind of vibe, through which they display a superior level of musical talent- each band member has so much going on, from Greg on bass with a drum in front of him too, to Jack on guitar with a mini keyboard and glockenspiel on the go too.

Opening with Chasing Lions, a charismatic and atmospheric start to the evening, vocalist James starts the hype right away; “I wanna see this whole room getting down with us! I mean this, get down!” he yells, as the majority of the Academy sinks to its knees. The band take a Polaroid with the crowd, offering it to the person who dances the craziest through the next song, Pray. As the vibrant Passion, followed by new single Warpaint have their time, it’s undeniable that this band have definitely captivated a large proportion of the audience, who are now no longer just here for Busted. They end their set with Stop The Rain, and leave just one thought in mind; everything Natives are about from their music, image, instrument choices, all down to their name- it all just fits everything they’re doing entirely. And it works. The fervour surrounding Busted’s imminent appearance is almost tangible. The band admittedly did do a run of dates around the UK’s arenas last year when they announced their return, however this time around, the album is out and the venues are much smaller. From first song Kids With Computers, through Thinking Of You, it’s clear that despite the necessary classics making a return, Busted are an entirely different band. Each member has keyboards and synth pads in front of them on the stage, meaning they’re all live creating the electronic sound they have on the tracks (gone are the days of the Busted jump and the hyperactivity on stage, older Busted now far more static). In a way, the futuristic sound they have now, embodies their whole transition; for hundreds of kids back in the early 2000s, this really is Busted in the future.Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it) some things never change, and every single audience member hits the roof when the drop the first old timer, none other than Air Hostess. It’s true carnage, and not only that, the band seem to be having a great time too. Sandwiched between the latter and Nerdy, a track from the first album, Night Driver demonstrates lyrical content from Busted that carry far more ambiguity than their songs of the old days. “This is my favourite song off Night Driver, it makes me wanna shake my ass! Do we have any dancers in here?!” Matt asks, before I Will Break Your Heart, which is the most buoyant of the new tracks so far, boasting an infectious chorus, a bridge that welcomes a saxophonist to the stage, and (as promised) a beat that makes everyone want to shake their butts.But this is all in preparation for a run of four of the band’s biggest hitters: Who’s David, complete with some slightly updated lyrics, closely followed by an extremely nostalgic rendition of Sleeping With The Light On- which was preceded by ‘right guys, you can dance, but can you sing?!’ a question which, by the end of the song, was most definitely not left unanswered. Leaving no time to rest, Crashed The Wedding is next up in the line of classics Leeds is being treat to at this moment in time and it’s only with the arrival of 3AM that things slow down and get a little more serious- here Busted seem to hit their best point of the night.

Things are once again a little more civilised with New York, which has a very 1975 vibe to it, and features some keys from Charlie; for the newer songs each member occasionally ditches their guitar to take their turn on keyboards and the like. “Are you ready for the SHOWDOWN?!” Shouts James, teasing the intro for Year 3000 before Charlie and Matt bring it in for real, and show everyone what a truly undeniable song sounds like. After the encore, through which not one person is doubting that Busted will return to the stage (how could they possibly be done without What I Go To School For?!), Leeds gets its fix of stories about Miss Mackenzie and Matt’s school misdemeanours, before that’s it for old school Busted tonight. Coming Home and Those Days Are Gone wrap things up, and confirm that overall, Busted probably just don’t look quite as at home playing all of their newer music. Not to say it isn’t good- but the picture just isn’t exactly right.

Tonight, and just Busted and their reunion as a whole, proved that no matter what has gone on, or how grown up everyone involved is now, no one is ever too old to get down to their favourite childhood or teenage jams. Here’s to hoping this is the beginning of many years for the new era of Busted.

Photography by Erin Moore at Forte Photography UK

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