McFly, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

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As part of the build-up to the launch of their 5th studio album Above The Noise, the boys embarked upon a small and intimate 5-date mini tour of the UK, hitting Southampton Guildhall, O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, Bristol Colston Hall, Manchester Apollo and Edinburgh Playhouse. Unsurprisingly tickets sold out very quickly but we managed to secure a couple of tickets and so it was on a cold rainy afternoon we joined the queues outside the 2,000 capacity Empire.

The warmup act were 5-piece rock band Rio who commented that this was one of their biggest gigs to date; not much to say about them other than they were quite good for a support act, a good light rock band – better than some of the support acts McFly have had over the years!

Then it was time for McFly. Unsurprisingly their opening number was their current single, Party Girl; slightly surprising for those who’ve not seen them play it live, it sounds a lot more like McFly than the single does – in other words, those who were fearing that this single indicated that McFly were heading down the crowded synth’n’drum-machine route have nothing to fear, they are still very much the live guitar&drums band we all know and love! Although, at least for this mini-tour, not the usual 4-piece band; they were joined on stage with Isaac their regular tour keyboard player plus 2 lovely ladies who admirably fulfilled their backing vocal duties throughout pretty much the entire gig. 7 people on stage bringing the songs to life, sometimes like they never had quite been done before, in a good way.

After Party Girl they were straight into another song off the forthcoming album, Nowhere Left To Run (also the title of their showcase mini-film which sees the boys under attack from vampires, including from one within…) – it was pretty clear that this mini tour was designed to showcase the new album in advance of its release, with around half the tracks being completely new to the audience; now, I still recall Dire Straights making that mistake at Knebworth ’90, playing a set of new material which didn’t kinda brought the crowd down, but I think it says something about the new album that even completely new tracks went down very well – very catchy numbers, plenty of good hooks to pick up the interest and it bodes well for the album’s release in November. I can definitely see End Of The World doing well with it’s excellent War Of The Worlds (technically Eve Of The War) hook, ably played in harmony by Tom and Danny live.

Having not toured for a while, some bands might be a bit rusty at first (perhaps that was another reason for the mini-tour, to get back into the swing of things?) but the boys showed no real signs of that, they were tighter than ever, plenty of banter (both with each other and with the other 3 musicians joining them for the gigs, which was nice to see) and the usual antics running round the stage and generally having as good a time playing as the audience were having listening – it was clear they still very much enjoy doing what they do; even when they had to abandon their first attempt at one of the songs as poor old Danny suddenly got an overwhelming need to sneeze, much to everyone’s amusement!
The cover this time round was Taio Cruz’s Dynamite; having never heard the song before I can’t comment how well it compares to the original, but the choice was perhaps a foregone conclusion given he is one of the people they’ve worked with for Above The Noise; indeed, it was their collaborative new single Shine A Light which brought the evening to a close at the end of the encore, complete with it’s annoyingly catchy chorus (which was going round and round in my head all night long on our trip home! Good thing I like the song, really).

All in all, another excellent gig from McFly. No flashy light show, no lasers, no pyrotechnics; just good old fashioned honest live music from a band who still very obviously really enjoy what they are doing and really get on with easy other and work well as a team. Not to mention a band who are continuing to evolve and are not afraid to branch out in new musical directions but without compromising on the essence that makes them who they were all along (if you see what I mean – they have introduced new influences and musical directions but they are still very much McFly at heart). A most enjoyable evening, even if we did get soaked in the rain for an hour or more beforehand waiting to get in (not that there was anything they could have done about the weather, of course!).

Mind you, one of the highlights of the evening happened before the gig started and, indeed, before most of the audience were even inside the Empire. McFly have recently set up their own fan club (well, fan club is doing it a dis-service, it’s so much more than a normal fanclub) called Super City, and the first 20,000 people worldwide to join up are Pioneers; there’s all sorts of things they plan to do over the year, but for this mini-tour any Pioneers with tickets for a gig had their own separate queue and we got in an hour before the main doors opened. So far so good – closer to the front and less time standing in the rain. But the highlight was that as we were all sitting on the floor (and we were all under strict instructions from Security to remain seated under pain of being ejected), McFly came out for a quick chat with the assembled Pioneers and then proceeded to wander through the still-seated (well, mostly! Security had their work cut out) crowd to say hello to as many as they could and sign autographs for a good 15 minutes or so. We came within inches of getting our tickets signed by both Tom and Harry as well (goodness knows where Danny disappear to quickly!) but the guys had to return to stage and thence their dressing room at that point partly for time and partly as the crowd were starting to get a bit animated (thus for safety). However, we did manage to get our tickets signed by Dougie – yay! And, I must confess, I briefly stroked Dougie’s calf as he passed by. So if you are reading this, Dougie, then I apologise 🙂

Setlist – Party Girl, Nowhere Left To Run, 5 Colours In Her Hair, If U C Kate, I Need A Woman, Lies, Fallen In Love, Star Girl, Dynamite (cover), End Of The World, Friday Night, Too Close For Comfort, All About You, I’ll Be Your Man, One For The Radio, Shine A Light.