‘It’s all that I can do, to sing these stupid songs to you…’
Britpop was more than just another movement. It was watching Oasis on Top of the Pops. It was singing along to Pulp in my front room. And amongst other things, it was listening to Slight Return by the Bluetones with my dad on holiday. A memory that I cherish. It isn’t just union jack tinted glasses or the nostalgia of youth that makes Britpop so important however. In many ways it was the last great youth movement, and with popular culture as fractured as it has ever been, it is feasible that nothing like Britpop will ever happen again.
It is for this reason that I kind of collect Britpop artists. I don’t mean I’ve got the bassist from Menswear locked in my cellar, but rather I collect live performances. My aim is to see every band who influenced me in the 90s and shaped my tastes for decades to come. Mark Morriss of the Bluetones was one to cross off that list and he didn’t disappoint…
Taking to the stage with a confident run through of Low Company from his 2013 album A Flash of Darkness, it is clear that Morriss has lost none of his boyish enthusiasm or charm. 25 years as a live performer have given Morriss a relaxed on-stage presence, and he rips into Doncaster as readily as he self-deprecates himself, meaning a ripple of laughter is never far away for the Doncaster crowd. Bluetonic is a bona fide, Britpop classic and it soars here, surprisingly suited to an acoustic rendering, even without the backing vocals. Solo tracks such as It’s Hard To Be Good All The Time and Consuela slot in seamlessly alongside classic Bluetones tracks but it is the latter that receives the best response with Cut Some Rug sounding abrasive as ever and Marblehead Johnson every inch the top ten hit that it is. The Beans follows, a straightforward stomp that is probably the best of Morriss’ new songs before a run through of the Bluetones Sleazy Bed Track closes out the first part of the set.
Morriss returns to the stage to play a couple of surprising and eclectic covers. It is unlikely that American folk band Midlake and tragic 90s boyband East 17 have ever been mentioned in the same sentence before but covers of both go down a storm with Morriss’ version of East 17’s ‘Stay Now’ being particularly successful. Donny is treated to a pair of Bluetones tracks to finish the set with Britpop anthem Slight Return followed by another 90s classic in the shape of If…
As when I saw ex-Seahorses frontman Chris Helme at the same venue, it is striking, not just how many good songs Morriss has, but also how accomplished and fresh his new material sounds. To still be performing after 25 years, you must love being on stage. That enthusiasm translates to the crowd and Mark Morriss is as good as anyone at making sure everyone leaves entertained, smiling and merry.
This article was written for Doncopolitan magazine: