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A blue tonic

Queen Elizabeth Hall

WELL this makes a nice change. Instead of some sweaty old dive in the middle of Camden Town packed to the rafters with anorak-wearing indie bores, we find ourselves in the rather plush confines of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a clean beer glass in hand and a comfortable chair beneath our backsides.

I always knew John Peel had a certain amount of style, and not staging his much acclaimed Peel Sessions Live in one of the usual central London cattlesheds has definitely raised my opinion of the man.

Interesting choice of band for the opening night though.

Personally I love The Bluetones, their sparkly mix of jangly 60s pop and 90s indie swagger - not to mention the fact that they rock it up live - hits me right where, well where every other indie band around doesn't.

But I recognise there are only a few of us in the media world that think this way and, as such, I thought Peel might have gone for something a bit more, for want of a word, credible.

Stiff who am I to assume.

Maybe he likes The Bluetones as much as me, and, lest we forget, as much as the kids.

For indeed, The 'Tones are enormously popular and attract a large a devoted fanbase most - whom seem to be here tonight - to their gigs.

They are well-behaved enough to start off with - 'like playing to a parents' night' as singer Mark Morriss later puts it - probably unsure what to do at a gig in such civilised surroundings.

But a few songs in and the chants of "Blue army" have begun, two young girls appear at the edge aisles and before you know it the skeleton security are looking a tad worried.

It takes a while - Solomon Bites The Worm, Bluetoffic and Sleazy Bed Track fly by - but gradually a few of them grit their teeth and head to the stage.

By the last song - a rousing sing-along rendition of If - virtually the whole of the audience is down there, jumping up and down like we are at the Astoria - though strangely the people seated at the front don't budge an inch, exhibiting the steely determination of those who are far too cool to be seen have a good time.

The devoted cheering as the band departs provokes an apparently genuine encore, leaving none of us in doubt that this was a special night.

Stripped down and relaxed, with Morriss' vocals better than ever, The Bluetones seemed in their element, and are looking seriously in danger of becoming the (thoughtful) people's choice.

Brendan Richard

Extracted from Willesden & Brent Chronicle, Thursday 18th February 1999