Live Report: Blossoms, Rick Astley – O2 Kentish Town Forum, London

An entertaining trawl through The Smiths' catalogue...

When The Smiths wrote 'Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want', who'd have thought that they were talking about Rick Astley and Blossoms doing a covers set at the Kentish Town Forum?

Rewinding slightly, Rick Astley coming on stage a few weeks ago with Blossoms to do a rendition of The Smiths classic 'This Charming Man' was so out of the blue that it wasn't clear at the time whether it was an elaborate joke, a fever dream, or both. When they then jointly announced shows in London and Manchester exclusively playing songs by the much-loved band, it again felt like a very early April Fool. Luckily for everyone, it wasn't.

It's a concept that could quickly descend into farce, with the wry smile of famous karaoke all too easily descending into boredom when extended to a full set. Blossoms and Astley avoid this trap by being really, really good at it. Pitch perfect vocals and almost unbelievably good instrumentation mean that, if you close your eyes, you can imagine you're seeing The Smiths themselves. The only thing missing is the nagging sense of guilt you'd feel if the man you were cheering was actually Morrissey, rather than the songwriter behind one of the world's first internet memes.

The set is surprisingly beefy, to boot. Almost 20 Smiths tracks get an airing, each performed as if the people on stage have spent every night this year practising them. No brainers like 'Bigmouth Strikes Again' and (of course) 'This Charming Man' are obviously included, but deeper cuts are played – and received – with just as much enthusiasm.

The Smiths have always been a complicated band to love. Lambasted as pretentious or unmasculine in their time, the universal appreciation that came with time was tainted by Morrissey's increasingly bigoted attitude and refusal to shut his mouth.

Blossoms and Rick Astley have taken that legacy, and what could have been an ill advised joke, and turned it into something cathartic and incredibly enjoyable. Belting out classic songs with a roomful of people who know every word would make tonight worth the ticket price on its own. Add to that the absurdity of seeing Rick Astley do exactly the same, and you're left with something unmissable.

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Words: Jake Hawkes

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