Those Days Are Gone: Busted’s Night Driver Tour marks a new era.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

5/5

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Album Review: Night Driver by Busted

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When Busted announced they would be getting back together, the whole world went mad. But not only did they share news of their reunion with the world, they also said that their come back would be accented with new music. Cue the screams of a thousand fans lying dormant for 12 years in waiting for this day to arrive!

I know I certainly screamed my head off. The idea that Matt, Charlie and James would be in the same room together was enough to bring me to tears of joy, let alone a tour… and an album as well!

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But when Busted first released their new come back single Coming Home in May 2016, I will admit I was a bit surprised and a bit worried. I liked hearing their vocals together on a track again, and I wasn’t worried that it sounded different at all, it just sounded a bit empty. Busted’s songs were so rich, and so hearing something very simple was certainly a shock. However, after seeing the boys on their tour in Wembley, my mind was put to rest as they also debuted new songs Easy and One of a Kind. Also, hearing Coming Home live made me like it much more. It was anthem-ic and filled up the arena easily. I don’t think the digital production did it justice.

So I was EVEN MORE excited for the album, and when the first single On What You’re On dropped, my excitement sky rocketed through the roof. Yes, it was a different sound, and yes it wasn’t the pop rock we were used to with Busted’s first two albums, but they weren’t the same band. For a starters, 12 years had passed and both Matt and Charlie had become fathers in that time. Secondly, the band split up on the grounds of creative differences, so to come back together and make the same music wouldn’t be logical. Thirdly, pop music moves on, tastes change, people grow up – it was always going to be different.

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I genuinely loved the new sound. And when Night Driver dropped, I got a whole album full of it! The record starts off strong with Coming Home, the single released back in May to promote their Pigs Can Fly Tour, and Night Driver, the title of the album and one of the strongest songs on the record. It makes you want to get up and dance, and is the perfect blend of pop, rock and synths. Charlie’s vocals, overall on the album, are outstanding, but on this particular song just send shivers down your spine.

Next up is On What You’re On, their lead single, and New York, another of the strongest on the album. On What You’re On is a great bridge between Night Driver and New York, with it’s more melancholy tone, but is no less anthem-ic than the previous tracks. I can see the arena now, with this song closing the set before an encore. Camera lights, fireworks and loud sing-a-longs. I can feel the tears coming.

Thinking of You and Without It are another two compelling tracks that really confirms just how strong the first half of the record is, and leads nicely into One of a Kind, another song that the boys played on their Pigs Can Fly tour as a teaser to the album. I Will Break Your Heart and Kids With Computers fly by in a haze of electro-synths and catchy lyrics, rounded off nicely with Easy from the Pigs Can Fly tour. Easy is the song that closely resembles the band’s first two albums, and has become some fans firm favourites because of this reason.

But I think two of the strongest songs on the album finish off the tracklisting. Out of Our Minds and Those Days Are Gone are both fantastic encores to Busted’s comeback album. The latter almost sounds like a song from Simpson’s solo albums, with his slick and deep vocals running all over the melody until the synths kick in. Even then, the song is sweet, with a gorgeous ending to the record. Yes, those days are gone, but there are many more to come. And I for one, could not be more excited.

5/5

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You can purchase Night Driver by Busted from the following retailers:

Amazon / HMV / Tesco / iTunes / Google Play / Webstore

Coming Home: A Reunion 12 Years in the Making

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On 14th January 2005, when I was thirteen years old, my world ended, as Busted held a press conference detailing the departure of guitarist Charlie Simpson, and thus the group had decided to disband. But our story begins two and a half years previously in August of 2002, when Busted launched themselves onto the Pop scene, revolutionising the face of the genre, from boy bands busting moves to boy BANDS rocking out with guitars around their necks.

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One month later, What I Go to School For dropped, and everyone in the country fell for their bad boy persona, lusting after their teacher Miss McKenzie. But what really set them apart from other pop groups, was the appearance of their second single Year 3000. It was clear from the start that Busted didn’t want to conform to the “boy band love song” ideals, and just wanted to have fun, which was exactly what we did. After their third single You Said No went to number one, the band then entered the Guinness World Book of Records for having their three consecutive debut singles in ascending order. But that wasn’t the only achievement under their belts, their first self-titled album Busted, shot to number two in the UK Top 40, and has since been certified three times platinum.

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Everything was going swimmingly for the band, with more hit singles and another hit album, BRIT awards, sell out tours, you name it, they had it. So when Charlie started his passion project Fightstar to outlet some of his pent-up creative energy, not a lot of people understood his decision. Nevertheless, their second album A Present for Everyone dropped and was stronger and more mature than their first record. But all was not well in the Busted camp. The band entered 2004 on rocky ground, and it was clear the foundations of the band were beginning to crack. Charlie looked increasingly unhappy, and Matt and James looked unhappy at the fact Charlie was unhappy. Consensus: everyone wasn’t happy. They’d been handed everything on a plate, so why the despondency? Busted embarked on what would be their final tour, and in the new year of 2005, the band was over.

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Ever since that date, it was clear that Busted was well and truly finished. Charlie seemed glad to be rid of his pop-boy-band background, throwing himself into writing hardcore rock songs with Fightstar, and releasing two solo acoustic albums that received critical acclaim. James tried to ride on the crest of the pop-boy-band wave, and created Son of Dork, who had a more punk sound than Busted, but still showed that James’ songwriting talent was not tied to his former band. After Son of Dork disbanded, James retreated to LA and became a full-time song writer, penning hits for a variety of artists and developed Son of Dork’s album Welcome to Loserville into a musical titled Loserville. Matt stayed in the limelight and released a solo album, one that was underwhelming considering Matt’s talents as a musician and as a singer. Eventually he entered the I’m a Celeb jungle and went onto win, fully re-launching himself in a career as a TV presenter and personality. It seemed that each of them were doing just fine in their own way, but the fact that the boys weren’t close and didn’t speak still hurt the fan’s hearts.

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So imagine our surprise when Matt and James joined good friends McFly on stage to perform a few of Busted’s hits during the 10th Anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall under the name McBusted, and things only got more exciting when McBusted announced that they would be touring and releasing new music together. It was almost as good as having the real thing, and considering Charlie had been bought out of the Busted name for a six figure sum, it seemed clear that it was all we were going to get in terms of a Busted reunion. So imagine our surprise when Matt, James and Charlie announced just that. The Busted reunion we had all been waiting for.

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Throughout the 12 years of silence, there had been many whispers every now and again that something could happen, but had always been shot down by Charlie who was adamant that he would never, ever, rejoin Busted. After a while, it became a mantra to the fans. It just wasn’t going to happen. Then, different kinds of whispers emerged, not suggesting that Busted were back together, but that they had been in the studio together writing new music. It was this news that made the fans ears prick up, and eventually, after many more news stories reporting the same thing, Busted announced officially that they were getting back together, and would tour for the first time since their split.

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Me and my good friend Rob immediately bought tickets for their first night back at Wembley Arena, as we knew it was going to be a special night, and boy were we right. It was the same arena where Busted had performed their last show, and so to see them in the same venue for their first show seemed fitting. Emma Blackery and Wheatus were great opening acts, fueling the fans with adrenaline, and the appearance of McFly in the crowd made us go wild. It seemed it wasn’t only us that had been waiting 12 years, McFly had been too.

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Then, the moment was finally here, as Busted returned via trap doors in the stage and broke out into their newest single Coming Home, which they had given away to the fans for free. Then, they swiftly moved onto the hits everyone was waiting for, following up with Air Hostess and Falling For You, both from their second album. The night took an emotional turn, as the three boys we once knew, who had grown into men, circled each other, smiling and laughing as if 12 years hadn’t passed at all.

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They then went onto play Everything I Knew from their first album, which had, in some ways, become a soundtrack to the news that Busted were due to split all those years ago. Although it was somewhat an underrated track from their self-titled debut, its inclusion in the set list made it all the more meaningful.

“Everything I knew, just went out the window, now I can’t depend on you forever. I never thought I’d see my life walk away from me, I thought we’d always be together… You didn’t have to pay for every word I’d say, and I wish I could change your decision…”

I’m not going to lie. I shed a tear or two.

“Lets go back, lets rewind to the days that remind me of all the good times that we spent together, and I don’t know why we just let it all slide when we both knew inside we were right for each other.”

It felt very poignant hearing those lyrics, watching them play together after so long, after all the harsh words that had been probably been exchanged behind closed doors. The boys continued an amazing set with their first number one single, You Said No, That Thing You Do, from their second album, and a personal favourite of mine, which was completely unexpected, Dawson’s Geek.

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Then, the guys moved to the B-Stage, which was set up in the middle of the arena and decorated with vintage rugs and a glorious chandelier. The crowd, completely enthralled by Act 1 of the concert began to chant Charlie’s name, to let him know just how happy we were to have him back. Act 2 continued with Who’s David an Easy, a new mellow rock song that the boys had written together in the Philadelphia sessions. Before Act 3 of the show began, we were treated to “the soundtrack for us getting back together,” said Charlie, as he looked meaningfully to James and Matt, as if to say, yes, I’m really back and you have no idea how happy I am that I’m here. At that moment, all thoughts of “doing it for the money” or “publicity” went out the window. No one could deny the vibe that we were all riding on. The boys then began to play Meet You There, the song they had re-recorded at Abbey Road to help announce their come back.

 “I’m waiting, for the perfect time to call you back, cause I remember saying I don’t want to know the truth, can’t handle that… It’s written all over your face, such a painful thing to waste, tell me now where do we go? Now the future’s not so clear, I can’t believe we’ve ended here…”

More tears were shed.

“I’m sorry, if I slagged you down I meant no harm, but when I heard the stories I said things I didn’t mean, should have stayed calm. But sadly, you got angry, and it breaks my heart, you’re so mad at me…” 

It felt like a public apology between the boys, and for the fans too. Yes, 12 years has passed, and we’re all sorry, but we’re here now, and that’s what matters.

For Act 3, the boys moved back to the main stage and treated us to another new song titled One of a Kind, in which James played the key-tar, which he had apparently been trying to shoe horn into Busted songs for years. Then, we had another string of hits, Thunderbirds Are Go, Sleeping with The Light On and Why, which was Charlie’s personal diary entry from A Present for Everyone, and seemed to further give context on what had been going on inside 2004-Charlie’s head, and the reasons why Busted split in the first place.

“Just talk to me a while and joke about the things we used to see, it’s so hard for me to smile. I’ve never felt so alone, after all of this there’s so much left to lose… but how can I complain, when everybody seems to know my name? You’re out of luck and I’m out of line. It’s such a selfish compromise, a self-indulgent useless bunch of lies…”

Why is a favourite of mine because it’s so honest and gritty and I felt like we finally understood Charlie’s motives and reasons for leaving the band. It was the perfect note to end on, as if all the loose ends had been tied up, and all the wounds had healed. After that, the hits continued Crashed the Wedding and What I Go to School For, with an encore of 3am and Year 3000. Then just like that, it was over. The boys took a bow and thanked the crowd for such a warm welcome. The show we had been waiting 12 years for was over and Busted had performed together again. If the world had ended the next day, I would have died a happy fan. Finally, The boys put their arms around each other and took a photo to commemorate their first gig as a group, showing just how happy they are to be back together – and we can’t tell you just how happy we are too.

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Author Interview: The Last Roadshow by John Czarnota

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Joe Knocker’s lucrative career as a rogue art thief who trailed the Antiques Roadshow for over a decade is interrupted by a life-changing encounter with his past. The result, a cross-country trek to make right one of the nation’s wrongs by retrieving a national treasure, leads to a heart attack, a missing body, a kidnapping, a promising romance, a showdown, and a shocking reunion. Interweaving historical fact with psychological insight and colorful characters, The Last Roadshow takes us on an unforgettable redemptive journey.

In Czarnota’s debut mystery novel, we catch a glimpse at the life of Joe Knocker. ‘Everything about him was plain and boring. In a few minutes you would have forgotten you ever saw him. That’s what he counted on.’ Mr Czarnota was kind enough to sit down with us and talk through why Joe Knocker’s ordinary life was so compelling to write about.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?  – The middle. Filling it in.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?The dialogue. For me, it’s the biggest challenge. Also the most enjoyable. 
Do you write every single day? No. But I think about what I’m going to write every day. I’m always blocking scenes in, like a screenplay.
Which writers inspire you?Right now, I would have to say B.A. Shapiro. Her last two books, The Art Forger and The Muralist,  leave me wanting more. 
What are you working on at the minute?If you must know, a bottle of my Son-in-laws hand-crafted home-brew. 
What’s is your latest book about?  – A sequel to The Last Roadshow. 
 
What inspired you to write your book?At first this was going to be a screen play. I’ve written 2 in the past. But the bad taste of dealing with L.A. agents and the like came right back. So the thought of writing a book that I could have total control over if I so chose to was a no-brainer. On the business side, millions watch the Antiques Roadshow here, in Europe, and Australia. So there was a strong probability of a built in audience.
Do you have a specific writing style?Not yet.
How did you come up with the title?Most everything in the book happens after the Antiques Roadshow in Palm Springs, so it was an easy choice. The same for my design of the book jacket. 

Follow the virtual tour for The Last Roadshow via Book Bear’s Twitter to find out more.

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Praise for The Last Roadshow

It’s the Antiques Roadshow’s thirteenth season, and Raoul “Knocker” Reuin is sizing up his mark in Palm Springs — a well-dressed Native American man in a bolo tie, who has just had his 1920s-era John Sloan painting appraised at over $1 million. Knocker’s eyes light up with the expectation of a calculated theft later in the day and a fast $100,000 payday from fencing the purloined painting.

But things go awry for Knocker in this cleverly conceived novel by John Czarnota.

A former mark named Andy Wells tracks Knocker down in a hotel bar and confronts him about the theft two years earlier of his historic — and priceless — Lewis and Clark flag. In exchange for its safe return, however, he says he won’t press charges against Knocker.

The conversation leads to the disclosure of clues about who may now have the flag. All Knocker has to do is find him.

The trail leads back to the East Coast, where Knocker discovers that the art dealer — who has been financing his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife’s rest home care with money from fencing Knocker’s thefts over the years — is missing and presumed dead.

Knocker, however, traces the missing heirloom to the rest home’s chief executive, and he makes ingenious plans to get it back. Along the way, we meet a colorful ensemble cast of characters and learn a great deal about his other Road Show heists.

Does Knocker indeed retrieve the flag and return it to its rightful owner? You’ll just have to read this meticulously researched and well-written book to find out.

Five stars to this first-time novelist. It’s a rare read.

Don Sloan. Author, The Dark Forces series.

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You can find out more about John Czarnota and his upcoming publications here

The Last Roadshow is available at: Barnes and Noble or Amazon

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