Neil Arthur – a.k.a Blancmange – was amazed by his welcome at the QMU
Blancmange – QMU, Glasgow – 3rd December 2022
The early 1980s birthed a new era of synth-based bands as synth-pop, New Wave and New Romantic music took possession of the music baton from punk in the UK. Many of the bands were short-lived whilst others stood the test of time but not many have continued (in some form) until the present day. Blancmange may now just be Neil Arthur and a couple of very capable session musicians but he is still delivering his own brand of music albeit in a less lauded manner than in the early 80s.
That’s not to say the new material isn’t worthy of recognition because it most definitely is and it stands out amongst a sea of same-sounding chart toppers. Blancmange introduced themselves in the early 80s with four rapid-fire hits and found themselves a long-term place in the hearts and minds of the followers of synth-based music.
Tonight at the QMU venue in Glasgow Blancmange returns to a city that has always given them a fantastic reception and the early signs show that this will continue as the crowd, comprised mostly of folk in their 50s, seem up for it. There were a good number of younger fans in attendance either as a tribute to the new material or because their parents made them go!
The support artist for tonight is Stephen Mallinder. Stephen is probably best known for the cutting edge and influential Cabaret Voltaire who was another synth-based band emanating from the huge synth scene of the 80s and, whilst not as popular as Blancmange, were massively influential and respected amongst their peers. Whilst not the most dynamic artist to watch two blokes stood behind a table with MacBooks and some electronic wizardry – the music they produced was superb with some monumental bass being thrown through the subwoofers! The crowd were into the tunes from the start with much dancing like no one was watching.
Tune after tune tested the PA system bottom end to the limit and the crowd were well and truly warmed up for Blancmange. Stephen Mallinder is still doing it and deserves a bigger piece of the action.
Photo Gallery – Stephen Mallinder – Credit: John Brown
Due to the lack of a backline and stage set, the turnaround was brief, and then, after a small technical issue with the drums, it was time for Blancmange.
A short intro tune delivered expertly by the session musicians on synths and drums introduced Neil Arthur onstage to a huge roar.
Despite some of the off-beat songs and lyrics of Blancmange, Neil has always been pretty straight-laced in appearance; like your favourite physics teacher with just a tad more nervous energy. He looks like he is going to pass out with nerves on the first song and, if the truth be told, it showed in his vocals. However… the look of relief at the end of the song was palatable and a new physics teacher emerged. The reassurance of a massive roar from the crowd seemed to energise him and from that point the physics lesson became enjoyable!
The set was a hugely enjoyable mix of the old and the new with songs from his latest album – “Private View “- displaying that he is still producing some tremendous songs that stand out from the malaise and will stand the test of time. Like all bands and artists with a long history, the hits of old always get the warmest and loudest ovation and songs such as ‘Waves’ and ‘Blind Vision’ had the crowd in raptures.
However, the best-known song is obviously ‘Living on the Ceiling’ and the aforementioned ceiling almost came in due to the crowd noise. It also led to what must be up there with the longest crowd participation in history as the crowd chanted the main lead line back to Neil and the band for what seemed like an eternity; Neil left the stage for a few minutes and the chant continued, he came back on and the chant continued… He looked at his watch and commented that there was a curfew but the chant continued! As the band started the next song the chant continued and the band looked amazed and delighted in equal measure.
Neil commented many times during the night on how happy he was to be there and looked genuinely embarrassed by the reaction and the after-show signing session reiterated that feeling of happiness. A genuinely nice man with a talent that deserved and deserves more plaudits and recognition.
A fantastic night of entertainment and nostalgia with a great sense of satisfaction that both Neil and Stephen are still producing top-notch tunes that stand out from the rest.
Photo Gallery – Credit: John Brown