Bluetones Show True Colors

Pop-rockers have fans moshing the night away to new and old favorites.

WOLVERHAMPTON, England -- Young eyes were dazzled by the

headlamp-style glare of multicolored lights, and their upturned faces were

painted in laser-beam fluorescence.

Bluetones singer Mark Morriss erupted onto the stage in a print shirt and flares.

And the girls went wild.

Soaring confidently through a mixture of songs from old and new albums,

the Bluetones were anything but blue last Wednesday at Wolverhampton Civic

Hall. "They seem almost triumphant," said Lucy Salt, 24, from Birmingham,

England. "They look really happy, and it shows in the music, I think."

As soon as the first chords of the band's latest single, "Solomon Bites

The Worm," reverberated from the speakers, the huge cheer from the mosh pit

confirmed what many in the crowd already knew about the Bluetones.

"Long time no see," Morriss said, referring to the band's relative absence since

its 1996 album, Expecting To Fly.

Now that they had returned, local teen-agers dominated the capacity crowd in

their elaborately put-together outfits, designed to look as unplanned as

possible, but all identical to each other: baggy trousers and tight, logoed T-

shirts, and every pair of feet sported a pair of flat Adidas trainers. Though the

average age of the audience was 15, the evening was surprisingly

sophisticated and flowed smoothly through past and present Bluetones

classics.

An exceptional singer and showman, Morriss really seemed to care about the

lyrics he sang, emoting with every line. His actions, whether it was the way his

voice soared or the way his body contorted, actually matched the mood of the

songs, a nice change from the uniform tambourine-bashing and "ironic," soldier-

like stance of the supporting bands.

The Bluetones' sound was huge and full, and from the night's airing

of new material, nobody will be disappointed with their new album, Return to

the Last Chance Saloon. "What a night!" said 17-year-old Emma Bloom of

Birmingham as she stood at the stage door after the show. "I can't wait for the

next tour."

"I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce our new friend, Richard," announced

Morriss, halfway through the evening, before cryptically reciting half of Lewis

Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky." Very rock 'n' roll, and quite an effective way of

presenting the Bluetones' new keyboard player. Full marks for originality and a

bonus point for effort. This tour has clearly been choreographed and stage-

managed: The set was carefully arranged after the support bands to hide as

much wire as possible; the drummer, Eds Chesters, was raised on a separately

lit platform; and the elaborate lighting made even this small venue feel like the

Royal Albert Hall.

The tracks from the new album were a little more subdued

than Expecting To Fly's clangy dissatisfaction. "Sky Will Fall" is a

gorgeous, melodious and, at times, cacophonous ballad in a melancholy,

well, blue tone. The band's next scheduled single release, "If ... ,"

was definitely the most requested song. "It's so gorgeous. In

fact, I have to admit, that song is inspiring to me," whispered Claire James, a

15-year-old from Wolverhampton.

Superstardom may have taken its toll on the Bluetones, however. They were

unable to leave the building without the required two-and-a-half hours of

"chilling" in the Stage Bar after the concert. And that did not exactly sit well with

some of the Bluetones' fans.

"Right, that's it," Bloom said after half an hour in the cold. "I can't be bothered to

wait any longer. Primal Scream were out signing autographs in 15 minutes.

I'm off."

The Bluetones may be great, but there's only so much waiting around that their

fans can take.