As the Insta post for Star Shaped Manchester promised:
And so it was.
We’ve been to Star Shaped Manchester before. Also, their Oasis night at Zombie Shack a few years ago, so we know we’re in for a good night. Well day, as it started at 2.15pm.
And we were there.
The Ritz is such a great venue, and the old bouncy dancefloor only makes for a better experience. Plus it means this older crowd don’t need to jump about as much as we did in the 90’s! It’s dark, the bars are open and there are plenty of people for Chris Helmes slot – a smooth move by the organisers to get people at the venue early. With such a great voice, and great rapport with the audience, The Seahorses’ frontman plays a fabulous set. Everyone sings along to the hits, and happily tap their toes to the new songs from as he says sarcastically, “long awaited new album”.
Helmes’ voice sounds great and just as good as the recordings we played over and over on our CD Walkman (Walkmen? Yes I had one. I remember not being able to walk any faster than a trot otherwise it would skip!) “Love me and Leave Me”, a personal favourite, was gorgeous. With “The Eye of the Tiger” sneaking into the set mid-song towards the end we’re all in good voice, but it’s over too soon.
Then it’s time for Salad, who it appears still have plenty of fans – we only managed to catch a few songs but they seemed to make their fans happy.
Geneva, who got back together last year have all the charm. Singer, Andrew Mongomery and his gentle voice are great for the Saturday afternoon slot at this one-day festival.
Next up it’s Space. 2 UK Top 10 albums and 9 Top 40 singles, not that it matters to us but hey, there are loads of highs in this set. Tommy Scott seems well up for it this afternoon! Swigging out of a bottle of rosè between songs and interacting with the crowd throughout! But for me it took a while to get going, and “The Ballad of Tom Jones” with Cerys Jones’ vocal played alongside is the one that feels like Space were in the 90’s.
Loads of fun, the set continues and Tommy even gets into the crowd and lets a punter sing the lyrics for the end of a song. “Neighbourhood” ends Space’s slot and, who knew suddenly Space seem like the perfect support act. But we still have 2 acts left on the main stage with Dodgy and Cast to come.
We have also the much-anticipated set by The Bluetones’ frontman and solo singer songwriter, Mark Morriss. We know he’s doing a solo set later, with a Britpop DJ Set thrown in for good measure, but where is this basement we hear of…? Then we see a poster on the way to the loo – “first come first served” and the sweats start! So we decide to leg it straight after the last chord of Cast and hope to get in. I know this is retrospective but I’ll keep you waiting to find out if we got in…
Dodgy go down really well. Personal memories of seeing them in the 90’s are of a somewhat weak vocal from Nigel Clark – but not today. All the band sound on form and as Summer 2019 is drawing to a close the full play of “Homegrown” released back in 1994 seems like a great way to help end festival season. The crowd join in for plenty of songs and everyone is having a great day. “Staying Out for the Summer” feels like the anthem of today. We are also treated to “Good Enough” but sadly “If You’re Thinking of Me” wasn’t played – although that might have brought the mood down somewhat.
Star Shaped Manchester feels like the crowd, DJs and bands are very much celebrating the 90’s without a sense of desperation or melancholy. But it’s great to see quite a few younger faces here too. It’s much more of a celebration of Britpop than anything else. Sadly the prices at The Ritz aren’t worth shouting about, £6 for a vodka and coke. I didn’t brave Hooch or WKD to be truly authentic but I don’t think they had any 2-4-1 offers on like in the good old days! Well, we can’t have everything, can we? And as I am well aware, we’re certainly not students anymore!
And to our headliners. Cast are most definitely relishing in the fact they’re top of the bill tonight. With the band coming on first, John Power certainly makes an entrance. Arms out, he seems to be loving the adoration of the now, lets say ‘well-oiled’ but very happy crowd. Finetime, Alright, Sandstorm, Walkaway, Flying, Beat Mama I forgot just how many bangers Cast had! It really feels like a party in the Ritz now, its packed, the floor is bouncing and Cast sound on top form. What a great day.
BUT DID WE MAKE IT TO SEE MARK MORRISS???
Now were off to the basement. Luckily, its seems we’re not far down the queue and we do indeed get in! The basement is great, small but it has a bar, DJ booth and even seats (after 10 hours stood up they go quickly!) It turns out that Mark Morriss has already played another festival today, at Knebworth, a three hour drive away. But you wouldn’t know. He’s here, with his guitar and he gives us all what we’ve come for. Its very hot and sweaty in the basement but feels somewhat extra 90s authentic and nobody seems to mind enough to go anywhere. Poor Mark Morriss is pretty much in the dark – apart from the regular flashes from phone cameras, but he sounds amazing and the set is well worth sticking around for.
“Cut Some Rug”, “Never Going Nowhere”, “Bluetonic”, “Slight Return” to name a few. What a treat! A real warm up for this weeks gigs at The Rose and Monkey too. And in November The Bluetones play The Ritz once again! Then we get a little disco too – once we’re out there’s no stopping us!
Come on then Star Shaped, when’s the next Manchester gig?
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