O2 Academy, Oxford
25th October 2013
Earlier this year, two years after their modest showing at the Eurovision Song Contest, Blue released their “comeback” album, Roulette, named after their gamble in releasing it themselves. Unfortunately, by that point, the Blue credibility ship had sailed (though some would argue it was never in harbour in the first place).
It’s certainly not their voices; tonight Duncan says no other band except maybe perennial revivalists Backstreet Boys has the harmonic spread, and he’s got a point. It’s not necessarily the genre, either; boybandry might have moved on to guitars and floppy hair (again), but soul and r’n’b are still going strong in various forms elsewhere. They just weren’t around long enough, popular enough in their heyday or away long enough to draw on the level of nostalgia the reformed Take That did. The age range of the (almost exclusively female) crowd tonight is wide, but Blue have just got Radio 2 written all over them now, and it’s odd that the newer stuff they play tonight isn’t more in keeping with that demographic.
Their intermittent dance routines are unexpectedly energetic and slick – I was expecting far more “we sit down, we stand up, we lean”, as Simon so masterfully put it in The Big Reunion. Simon’s naff raps and the odd “remix” bits – which seem to be a live addition – delight the audience but don’t fit; songs like the otherwise flawless All Rise really don’t need them.
The members are easy to pigeonhole – the cool one, the ridiculous one, the one off the lottery, the one who mistook a cashpoint for a toilet – and perhaps having more personality in their hair than the whole of The Wanted have works against them, as, vocally at least, Blue are stronger together than apart, and they need to get back the momentum they lost.