Thu. May 19th, 2022

Ricky Astley, who teamed up with Blossoms to do a concert featuring songs from The Smiths, felt a bit like something Alan Partridge would have pitched between Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank and Monkey Tennis.

But that was what a crowd of 2,000 people were treated to in Manchester’s Albert Hall on Friday night with the ensemble arriving on stage for the Coronation Street theme. The concept was undeniably a bit strange and one that perhaps should not have worked, but the vast majority crammed into the room absolutely loved it.

Rick, 55, dressed in the same way as MC Hammer on his way to the golf course, and shared the stage with the ‘slimmest band in England’ was in his element in his attempt to own Morrissey’s distinctive warble. Although at times it was a bit like Olympic karaoke, he did a good job.

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Early renditions of Ask and Bigmouth Strikes Again put a marker on the quality of the show and also underscored the supergroup’s commitment to the cause. At night, no Rick Astley or Blossoms songs were performed, it was purely an evening of classics made famous by the Smiths.

Often during the concert, Rick told the audience how much Stockport’s finest Blossoms had ‘worked theirs’ to make the night happen and capture the era-defining sound of the fiery band – draped in Salford Lads Club heritage.

Fresh from their homecoming show at AO Arena Manchester, this concert perfectly portrayed Blossom’s lack of ego. It was clear that they were just having so much fun when they paid tribute to the band that shaped so many indie kids’ formative years. Blossom frontman Tom Ogden rarely took the lead and he didn’t seem to mind.

Leaving Rick at the center, the Never Going to Give You Up singer had the time of his life in that beautiful place as he regularly hammered things up. Halfway through the performance, he stopped and demanded the entire band down a J├Ąger, to loud euphoric cheers from the audience, which they duly did before continuing their way through Smith’s songbook.

In the final stages of the set, Rick and Tom encouraged the audience to light up the room with their phones as the tempo slowed for Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want. It was hard to imagine Morrissey doing such a thing, but it was a nice touch nonetheless.

Though fair to say, it’s hard to imagine Rick Astley doing some of the things Morrissey is doing these days.

The Encore classic in This Charming Man found Rick flamboyantly swaying across the stage in a fluidly imitating way that so many have done against Smiths down the 42s over the years. He also waved his microphone in the air like Morrissey with his trademark flowers.

These flowers appeared later in the night to close the song There is a Light That Never Goes Out.

While Smith’s legendary guitarist Johnny Marr called colab ‘both funny and terrible’ when he first learned of their intentions, it was clear that on Friday night the show was a loving tribute from men of different eras, all shaped of Smiths songs.

In many ways, it was definitely an ‘I was there’ experience to see the duo join together.

Next, we look forward to Peter Andre and Courteeners mating for an evening on their way through the Oasis back catalog …

Set list

What difference does it make?

Bigmouth strikes again

Still ili

Roll around the fountain

Cemetry Gates

Ask

Submit glove

Some girls are bigger than others

The boy with the thorn in the side

Girlfriend in a coma

Well I’m wondering

Heaven knows I’m miserable now

Panic

William, it really was nothing

Barbarism begins at home

Please, Please, Please Lad Me Get What I Want

Still

How fast is now?

This charming man

There is a light that never goes out

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