Ryan Delahoussaye walks out first, then Justin Furstenfeld.
That’s not as banal an opener as it seems, given the pair are the only members of Blue October that are here tonight. It should have been the full band, but their tour bus was involved in a horrific crash last night after they’d played Cardiff.
We won’t dwell on it, because they don’t, but their equipment is lost, the rest of the band (thankfully unharmed) are en-route to Liverpool to meet their new stuff, the singer and his sidekick are here (arriving just before doors) and – this should be the big reveal at the end, I guess – they are stunning. Genuinely incredible.
A radically revamped set from the one they played last night kicks off with “Come In Closer”, Delahoussaye on his piano, he switches to violin for “Ugly Side” and whatever you’re missing with the band, it’s not power, because these songs are delivered as if lives depended on them- which given the history of the group, they probably literally did.
It helps that Furstenfeld is a wonderfully engaging frontman, and by the time he’s done “Oh My My” you feel like you know him. His songs have that quality, that you feel you are in a confessional with him, you find out he’s never seen Star Wars then he’s pouring his heart out on “Schizophrenia” (“one for the old fans”) and somehow it all fits.
He’s witty too. After “into The Ocean” he implores a woman in the crowd to never clap again, before his incredible vocal range is showcased on “18th Floor Balcony”.
These are proper reworking’s not re-hashes; but they prove my long-held belief that a great song translates to whatever format, and in the case of “Hate Me” that’s true for sure.
After promising ‘we’ll make you sad as fuck!” before “Home”, the two songs that elevated the show from “great” to something else entirely happen. “Bleed Out” is fragile and haunting, before “Fear” sees Furstenfeld become almost possessed. He is these songs. These are not mere words. This is his life on this stage. The passion is incendiary.
“The Weatherman” restores a moment of calm almost, “Worry List” is a clear fan favourite, before “Where Did You Go I’m Less Of A Mess These Days” from last years “Spinning The Truth Around” (“we’re gonna do a fun one, suck it up” reckons the singer) is transformed from a pop song on the album to something else altogether.
This being so intimate a gig there’s no encore, but “King” and “Say It” act as that anyway, before a brilliant “I Hope You’re Happy”.
Lesser bands wouldn’t be here tonight in the circumstances. And no one could have blamed them. That they came and put so much of themselves into the show, speaks volumes for them as people and also how important these songs are to both band and audience.
An unforgettable show, and if it was unexpected in nearly every way, it was entirely as imagined in another – I’d never seen Blue October before. I had been told that they were a majestic live band.
That scarcely does what happened here justice.