English pop rock act Busted kicked off March by bringing their ‘Night Driver’ tour to Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on Wednesday, March 1st. It was a much more intimate affair than their previous show in Dublin in the 3Arena last year, you can check out our review of that show by clicking: here.
Support on the night came from Natives, a band who describe their sound as ‘tribal pop’, and if that sounds like a gimmick, it is because it is one. They mix tribal sounds, with a focus on percussion elements, with an otherwise bland pop rock sound. The members of Natives used to play together in a pop-punk band called Not Advised, and while their vocalist Jim Thomas could pull off the angsty vocals required for that genre, his vocals, in my opinion, do not seem to lend themselves well to the pop-focused sound Natives are going for.
Natives opened their set with ‘Chasing Lions’ during which they asked the crowd to get on the ground and then to jump up, which was very ambitious for a support band to try to get the crowd to do during their first song, but it worked reasonably well. Throughout their set vocalist Jim did his best to keep up this crowd interaction and I was impressed by him doing so. Their new single ‘War Paint’ made an appearance and they finished their set with ‘Stop the Rain’ which the crowd enthusiastically clapped along to the beat of. Natives may not be to this reviewer’s tastes but they put a lot of effort into interacting with the crowd and got a very good response from them, which they deserve a bonus mark for: 5.5/10.
While the stage production during Busted was far more limited than it had been during their 3Arena show last year, it was still very impressive, which has given them a reputation for having a strong stage production regardless of the size of the venue they are playing and therefore trying to accommodate. The entire back half of the stage consisted of light pillars that created a constantly changing screen of lights, their backing drummer and backing guitarist were also hidden amongst these pillars.
Busted started off their set by playing a few new songs off their new album ‘Night Driver’: the catchy beat of ‘Kids With Computers’ going down well with the crowd, before ‘Thinking of You’ and its catchy chorus got some of the crowd to sing-a-long. ‘On What You’re On’, the album’s well-received lead single, with its Daft Punk like sound, followed and almost the entire crowd sprang to life with a decent amount of the crowd singing-a-long to its chorus. During these opening numbers, it is of note that vocalist and guitarist, Charlie Simpson did not have or play a guitar, and James Bourne was also playing a keyboard instead of his guitar. Before they played the next song Charlie and James were handed guitars. This time the entire crowd sprang to life as the opening note of ‘Air Hostess’ kicked off the song, the crowd sang the first verse without the need for James to utter a single note, an early highlight of the set. The title track off ‘Night Driver’ followed with Charlie returning to being guitar-less, before taking his guitar back for a surprise of the setlist, ‘Nerdy’ off their second album, 2003’s, ‘A Present for Everyone’, its humorous lines going down well with the crowd. Afterwards, Charlie complimented the crowd on their singing by saying “I know I shouldn’t say this but ye shit all over Belfast, [it is] nice to hear some noise”. More new songs off ‘Night Driver followed. During ‘Without It’ the bands backing guitarist was highlighted by playing a very strong guitar solo. James demanded a dance off before the band played ‘I Will Break Your Heart’, one of the new songs that actually featured Charlie and James playing guitars live during it.
Having played a lot of new songs during the first half of the set, the second half of the set instead focused on the older ‘hits’. The crowd sang-a-long loudly to the entirety of ‘Who’s David’ before stepping it up a notch during ‘Sleeping With the Light On’ by once again singing the entire first verse without the need for James to. The crowd continued to step things up by singing-a-long even louder to ‘Crashed the Wedding’. ‘3am’ is always going to be a personal highlight of a Busted set for me but this performance was particularly of note because Charlie screamed during the ‘much more’ part, something he was known to do back in the day but had not done while performing it last year in the 3Arena. They closed out their main set with ‘Year 3000’ their most well-known song.
Busted returned to the stage and kicked off their encore with the other big hit off their debut album ‘What I Go To School For’ before making the confusing choice to end their set with two new songs ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Those Days Are Gone’. ‘Coming Home’ is fitting as it was the first new material they had released in over 10 years when they released it last year and ‘Those Days Are Gone’ is arguably fitting due to its melancholic tone and lyrics, reflecting how the band’s youth and old pop-punk sound is in the past, and that they are now focusing on the present and what the future will hold instead of forever looking back on their past successes but I still think they could have ended the set on a stronger note by switching its spot in the set with ‘Year 3000’s.
Sadly Busted did not deliver too well on the longer set they promised, last May, to play once ‘Night Driver’ was out, the set was one song shorter with 17 songs instead of the 18 they played in the 3Arena but the show was, at the least, about 10 or 15 minutes longer than that set was. This was incredibly disappointing, they left out other older singles they could have played like ‘She Said No’ and strong fan favorites like ‘Why’ and ‘Meet You There’, the choice to not play ‘Easy’ off ‘Night Driver’ was also weird as it was the first song they wrote together in years, and bridges their old and new sound perfectly. Regardless, Busted continue to prove, with an impressive stage setup and equally impressive performance, that they deserve to be back and not just forgotten about: 9/10.