Busted were that intensely cringey, addictive pop-trio that you couldn’t ever admit to having a soft spot for. They weren’t renowned for their seriousness, and they certainly weren’t known for producing anything politically significant. But like it or not, they were iconic in a fun-spirited way, which makes their reunion, and the tour of new album Night Driver, so terribly risky for their reputation.
That said, there was no question about whether I was going to attend one of their tour dates, and regardless of whether it was destined to be a train-crash or a nostalgic treat, I wanted to be there soaking up the atmosphere.
The evening’s support came from Natives, a tribal pop band hailing from the New Forest, and they were certainly well equipped to warm up the comfortably full venue. Although there was nothing remarkable or particularly memorable about the four-piece, they were animated, enthusiastic, and held nothing back from the audience who lapped them up like starving dogs. I can’t recall any of their songs now, and I won’t be scouring the internet for them, but I certainly don’t regret taking the time out to watch their performance.
Next up: the heartthrobs from my pre-teen life, and as the crowd screamed and cheered for Busted’s arrival on stage, I felt like I was twelve years old again. Hits like Crashed the Wedding and Year 3000 were met with ear-splitting shrieks of glee, followed by audience members of all ages singing along and pulling some questionable dance moves. Surprisingly though, newer, 80s inspired tracks from Night Driver were also met with a similar tone of joy; a convention that both impressed me, and made it clear that the band have evolved in an intelligible way as not to alienate their avid fan-base.
Launching into this healthy combination of songs new-and-old the gig was the right side of giddy and hyperventilating, whilst still maintaining a professional and organised manner. I was initially concerned that the group would have lost their fun-streak by now, but it’s still there, proud and garish in its appeal as it always was.
Given that Charlie Simpson spent so long trying to shake all associations with the pop group, I also had anticipations of seeing a sheepish figure upon the stage, desperately longing to be elsewhere. Yet I was wrong. Along with Matt Willis, the duo were spirited, beaming, and genuinely pleased to be bounding around the stage, entertaining the vibrant audience. James Bourne however, looked less ecstatic to be in their company, and was far more static in his energy in comparison to his band mates. This manifestation reeked of someone who was coerced into attending, which was quite disenchanting to view.
One other issue of the evening was down to the poor-quality of the sound; a problem which the venue is notorious for. For me, this vaguely tainted the experience as it was borderline impossible to hear the trio speak between songs. This wasn’t the band’s fault, but it’s an issue that the venue need to address sharply unless they want hordes of audience members demanding their money back.
All in all, for many this gig was merely a trip down memory lane; yet with a new style and an evolved sound, Busted have ensured that they still have a glistening future before them.
Words by Keira Trethowan
Photography by Craig Taylor-Broad