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The Zutons, Bask. 28th February 2024

The Zutons are back! The last time I saw them was shockingly 20 years ago, 20 years! in Night & Day with Dogs Die in Hot Cars (I wish they’d reform too). Tonight we’re in Stockport’s delightful Bask as they treat us to a set of old favourites and brand new songs. These gigs in smaller venues feel like they’re warming up again, testing the water amongst friends, before stretching their legs to bigger rooms later in the year. So it’s a treat to not only get to hear stuff from the debut album in a venue like this, but also a first listen to songs from the forthcoming 4th record. We start with the infectious ‘Zuton Fever’ and right away I’ve gotta say they sound bloody good. Dave’s still got that raspy vocal, the bass still kicks and Abbie sounds even better on the sax than she did back in the day. I don’t know what’s in the water in Merseyside, but they look like they’ve barely aged a day. Now I didn’t pay the second album much attention if I’m honest, but there was a few stand out songs like ‘Hello Conscience’ which sounds decent. It’s a real rock stomper, getting everyone fired up which makes Dave smile. I wonder how many in this sold out room know The Zutons that well though, ‘Dirty Dancehall’ feels like a deep cut and seems to stun the room, there’s not much movement, but it sounds great, the tribal rhythm and again that sax, bouncing around beautifully. They’re front loading the set with oldies, getting everyone on board with the sultry sass of ‘Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love?’, which wakes everyone up. “Hello Stockport, we’re The Zutons” declares Dave, before Abbie grabs two sets of maracas and they slide into ‘Pressure Point’. It seems to fit the rising temperature perfectly, but it’s an odd song. Part of me thinks it feels like an early call for set highlight, but I’m not sure Bask agrees with me. It’s not the sort of raucous response I was expecting. The first new song is ‘Disappear’. It’s clear the room don’t know it and do that thing that crowds do when faced with new tunes. Stand still. It certainly sounds more grown up, soulful and layered, but it’s not bad and they attack it well live. It’s followed by another new one called ‘Rise’ which I wander over to the bar for. Bask is good in that you can see just as well from the bar as anywhere else. What’s not good is the service. It’s so bad I give up. After a slow singalong to ‘Confusion’ it’s more new stuff. ‘Best Of Me’ sounds solid enough, with more driving rock but at a mellow pace, with easy to pick up lyrics. It’s catchy, but that’s The Zutons all over. Songs like ‘In Your Arms’ though seem to lack the bite of the older stuff. It all sounds a bit safe, but maybe that’s okay. My foot is tapping after all and there’s plenty of cameras out filming. Although why people film 30 seconds of a song they don’t know is beyond me. ‘Don’t Ever Think (Too Much)’ puts us on more sure footing. Dave whipping up the crowd with a solo vocal intro before the band kick in and it goes off. The big one is next. I say big one, but I really don’t like ‘Valarie’. It’s undeniably a good song though, but I think I just got sick of it. It probably pays the bills and it’s clearly loved by the masses, but it’s telling that it’s dispatched mid-set. Dave looks happy though and he stopped complaining about the small stage and the side door being opened. Keep it open I say it’s bloody hot in here! ‘Remember Me’ lolls along nicely with its jaunty refrain of “gotta keep the feelin in” that keeps everyone singing along, but it’s starting to feel like I’m at a wedding disco. Albeit quite a cool one. A trio of new songs follows culminating with the recent single ‘Creeping on the Dancefloor’. On the strength of what I’ve heard tonight, it’ll be the stand out track on the new record, it’s an absolute banger and crowd clearly approve. It’s not ‘You Will You Won’t’ though. Fucking hell this still sounds awesome. It’s primal. Those drums, those lyrics that echo throughout the room like a football chant as they tease with false ends followed by freeform wig outs, it’s for me what live music is all about. They could finish there, but instead there’s the reprise of ‘Zuton Fever’ as a draft mercifully reaches me from somewhere. I’m left feeling a bit mixed. I like The Zutons, the early stuff still sounds good, but I’m yet to be totally sold on where they’re headed. The new record is out in April, so I’ll wait to hear that before I nail my colours to the mast. Anyone know what Dogs Die in Hot Cars are up to these days?


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