McFly are one of those bands that you had to like in secret when I was younger. The spin-off of Busted – manufactured by the same pop factory and starring ex-member Tom Fletcher – you couldn’t say you liked them if you wanted to keep your mohawk privileges.
McFly were different in a few subtle ways, however, and the stronger of us would argue them till we were blue in the face. They had a drummer… they had less programmed tracks… Dougie could beat Matt Willis in a fight… all these things mattered. As McFly got past the first poppy singles, they quickly got to show that they had another edge on Busted. There was some serious writing skills going on behind the Smash Hits Magazine covers. Comic Relief single ‘It’s All About You’ still stands as a classic and now the likes of ‘Five Colours In Her Hair’ are side by side with Bowling For Soup in proper pop punk playlists.
Now we’re in the era where you don’t have to be ashamed of the music you like. Everyone is old enough and wise enough to know that we all secretly like some horrendous music and it must be they who are without sin who cast the first stone. Tonight McFly are playing the super credible Barrowlands when they could have easily filled the Hydro just as Busted had a few weeks ago. Tonight we’re here to see a real band play a real show to real fans.
The show was opened by local (ten minutes down the road) lad Kerr Mercer. This was a surprise opening and only a short set of four or five songs… but they were a cracking four or five songs if you’re into the radio friendly, singer songwriter, acoustic, gruff voiced, heart on sleeve tunes that were on show here. With a decent radio plugger, Kerr could end up exactly where he wants to be in this world.
I don’t know enough established acts in this particular genre (I was told George Ezra?) to fairly compare him to… but if you track him down online, or at his shows at SWG3 or Tuts then you’ll get what I mean. He definitely got a few fans tonight as everyone that managed to get through the door in time for the set had their phones in the air for one ballad and that’s not a bad achievement for a couple of songs deep into an unannounced set.
The main support are LostAlone. As soon as they came on stage I thought “Queen”. Then I thought “Muse when they got boring”. The. I thought “Muse when they sounded like Queen”. That’s probably the best way I can describe this band.
Frontman Steven Battalle doesn’t quite have the vocal chops to put him in the same tier as Matt or Freddy – he resides more in the realm of early 2000s hard rock when it comes to his voice. The guitar work is up there though with face melting solos and a decent bit of showmanship. If you’re into hard rock, a little bit of schlock, and some interesting phrases and vocal harmonies then they’d be worth checking out.
I’m not sure what could get that to the next stage of the game… the live vocals just weren’t there tonight to say this band could fill a stadium. Maybe it was an off day – we are halfway through a long tour – but there’s a lot of strain and struggle at the high notes.
During LostAlone’s set the Barras fills to the the point where fans are practically at the stairs entering the ballroom. That’s a pretty exciting sign of things to come. In-between sets we’re treated to singalong songs like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Living On A Prayer’ along with a roadie doing his line checks dressed as a hotdog.
The party begins before the band has begun and there’s a lot of excitement in this room. When McFly takes to the stage what we get isn’t a pop rock concert. It’s a rock concert that’s polished and refined to pop standards. The difference there is that although they started as a manufactured pop act, what we have in front of us are four lads who have lived in each other’s pockets for the last two decades. They’ve grown up together and you can tell they have a bond that’s better than most “real” bands and it shows in the music. It’s tight, has the evolved musicianship you’d expect from live versions of hits, and the boy’s knees have fared better than mine as they jump around the stage. All four lads are looking every part the rock star too with Dougie giving Matt Willis a run for his money on how shredded they could get before tour.
The set isn’t overflowing with the hits I would be wanting from a McFly show… but I was kinda lost after the first few albums. That might be on me. What I will say is, even the songs I wasn’t familiar with made me want to go listen to them afterwards. They just hammer home how much of a rock band McFly has become. It’s not often pop acts get to shed that skin and I can’t think of another example of a band who have done it so well. I am very upset that they didn’t play ‘Room On The 3rd Floor’ which is an absolute anthem and I’ll be taking that up with someone… anyone… in the near future.
That’s the issue with being a band making hits for so long… you’re going to leave some fans disappointed when it comes to playing live since you can’t fit everything in before curfews. One fan who wasn’t disappointed was Ali who was celebrating her 30th birthday and got taken up on stage to play cowbell… She’s got a fever!
‘It’s All About You’ was paused for an audience member in distress but everything worked out ok. Steven from LostAlone came out to sing on ‘Shine On’ and Danny Jones got into the audience for ‘Red’ without the floods of security you’d usually see for a stunt like that. It’s an honest rock show with a band who love their fans and fans who’d go anywhere for the band. Finishing on that song about that girl with that hair was predictable but the best way to end the night. There was no confetti cannons, no fireworks, no inflatables… there didn’t need to be. The music did all the talking tonight and it had a lot to say.
Photos by Catching Light Photography