Less than a year ago, I saw Busted reform in front of my very eyes at Wembley Arena in May 2016. Since then, the boys have completed their comeback tour, recorded and released their newest album Night Driver and begun a second tour promoting their new sound.
When Night Driver was released back in November, I was completely bowled over and gave the album 5/5 when I reviewed it earlier in the year. So imagine my excitement when I heard they were going to be touring the new album AND they were coming to my home city, Brighton, to play. My good friend Rob and I snapped up tickets and spent the next few months stewing in our excitement waiting to see them.
The physical set up compared to the Pigs Can Fly Tour is vastly different. The boys have gone from huge arenas to more intimate venues like O2 Academies and the Brighton Center, which meant that their staging was simple, compared to the Pig Sty which they exhibited on the Pigs Can Fly tour. It wasn’t plain by any stretch of the imagination, as the boys had cool strip lights behind them that pulsed, throbbed and flashed in time with the music.
In fact, a lot of the set up for the new tour was different, including the set list as it now included songs from Night Driver. It was a great mix of old and new songs, the old mainly being their hit singles with the exception of Nerdy which is a fan favourite but was never released. You Said No didn’t make an appearance, much to my personal dismay, as I feel it’s one of their strongest. A girl can’t have it all though. As promised on their last tour, Thunderbirds didn’t make an appearance.
The boys opened with Kids with Computers, which was a surprise to me considering that it comes further down the track-listing on Night Driver, and I assumed they would open with the title track or Coming Home like they had done on the Pigs Can Fly tour. Never the less, it was a strong opening, followed by Thinking of You, which was recently announced as the band’s newest single and On What You’re On, which started the ball rolling for the Night Driver era.
Air Hostess got the Busted purists in the crowd going and singing along, which meant there was a very clear divide between fans that wanted to come and sing along to the old songs, and fans that were, perhaps, more tolerable of the sound change. Never the less, it was an ice breaker for the fans that didn’t know the new material as well.
Night Driver, the title track of the new album, completely lit up the room. Charlie’s front man role as been more established with the new record, as he takes most of the lead vocals and has swapped out the guitar for a synth machine. I worried he would look uncomfortable, as behind a guitar is clearly where he feels most comfortable, but he coped with the change well. For me, that was the moment when it felt confirmed in my mind that Charlie really is happy in Busted. He looked so at home that there should be no dispute.
Without It appeared after Nerdy, which in my eyes is strong enough to be a single. I Will Break Your Heart followed suit and was the perfect bridge between their old upbeat pop sound and their new 80’s influenced sound. Matt’s larger than life personality, as always, carries right to the back of the room. His passion and love, and natural show-man-ship was infectious, especially when he encouraged a dance competition and had no qualms dancing around the stage himself like a dork.
The boys followed with a re-invention of one of their hit singles, Who’s David, that has been completely rearranged into a more mature sound. I’m now begging them all on Twitter for them to release it because it sounded so good! I didn’t manage to get a recording of it, but I’m hoping someone did. More classics followed suit, Sleeping with the Light On, Crashed the Wedding, 3am, and one of their strongest from the new record, New York, which was truly anthem-ic. Year 3000 ended the main part of the set, and left the crowd on a high before the boys came back again for an encore made up of What I Go to School For, Coming Home and my personal favourite Those Days Are Gone.
James’s vocals, particularly his harmonies with Charlie, were on point and effortless. His cheeky, wacky nature was honed, but he set off his unique sparks throughout the show, dancing around like a goofball and reminding everyone to wear a seat belt whilst thanking them for coming to the show. Upon amping up the crowd, he cried, ‘I didn’t wear my shorts for nothing!’ Each of the boy’s brings something different to the band, which, in my opinion, is why the dynamic works. The transfer from recorded songs to live was great and shows their capability and legitimacy as a live band. I left the venue, singing and dancing all the way home, and I’m sure everyone else was too.
Ending on Those Days Are Gone, on the album and on the live set list, felt like a message to the fans. Those days are gone but we’re excited about the future and this is what it’s going to look like. The boys circled around each other like they did on the first night of their reunion tour when they played Coming Home. We’re here, it says, we’re here coming home. Those days really are gone, and I’m excited to find out what happens next.