The past 10 years for Busted have been a strange mix. Having split on bad terms back in 2005, the three-piece boyband went their separate ways. Charlie toured with Fightstar before turning to a solo career. James formed pop rock band Son of Dork and turned his hand at writing a West End musical. And after a brief stint in rehab after the band split, Matt launched an arguably unsuccessful solo career and dabbled in acting with a brief appearance in EastEnders.
After a few years out of the spotlight, James and Matt joined forces with McFly in 2013 to form the super group McBusted. They did two successful tours, performing classic tracks by both bands, as well as songs from their new joint album. Whilst many enjoyed the invention of this new super group and the opportunity to hear old Busted songs, there was one question that hung over like a dark cloud; is Charlie coming back? At the end of 2015, after McBusted had fizzled out, speculations of Charlie returning to Busted were rife on social media, and in November that year, everyone’s wishes came true; Charlie was back. Having released their third album Night Driver at the end of 2016, the band are now performing it live across the country, arriving in Manchester on Thursday night to a packed out venue.
The audience is a surprising mix of ages; many are young women in their early twenties who are sure to have been fans when the band were originally around. What is surprising though is the number of young teenagers adorning Busted t-shirts who are unlikely to have been old enough to be fans of the band when they were at their peak. Despite the wide age gap, there is one thing that almost everyone in the O2 Apollo has in common; the building excitement to finally see Busted live.
As the futuristic style strobe lights begin to flash, the three, now much older members, take to the stage. It’s a strange set up; whilst Charlie takes centre position, Matt and James stand either side of the stage and couldn’t be any further away from him if they tried. Not only this, they are also positioned facing towards the sides of the building, turned away from Charlie, rather than facing forward. It’s almost like there’s still some underlying tension between the members and they can’t stand to be close together, let alone look at each other.
Opening with a track from their latest album, Kids With Computers instantly illustrates of the biggest differences from when they were originally together; the guitars have been replaced with keyboards and synths. This is arguably one of the reasons why their newest album didn’t make it into the Top 10; the band tried too hard to fit into the current music scene rather than sticking to what made them successful before. Despite this, the opening song is greeted with deafening screams, which sadly still do not mask the absurd amount of auto tune on James and Matt’s vocals.
The first old classic comes in the shape of Air Hostess. As the guitars are dusted off and brought on stage, the fans go wild at the opportunity to hear one of the band’s most successful songs. Lyrics such as ‘I messed my pants as we flew over France’ sit strangely as they’re now sung by men in their 30s, two of which are married and have kids. Despite being in completely different times of their lives, the band appear to put as much enthusiasm in as they did 10 years ago.
As the set goes on, however, it is strikingly clear that James looks like he’d rather be anywhere other than performing on stage. Of course this could simply be because he’s having an off day, but it’s hard not to question whether the initial excitement of the band reforming is beginning to wear off. Luckily, Matt’s continual enthusiasm in both the old and new songs makes up for what James lacks.
As the band reel off their classic hits Who’s David, Sleeping With the Light On and Crashed the Wedding, the audience dance and sing along to every word, almost as if they are back in the noughties when the band were at their peak. Charlie’s vocals are also worth noting; whilst he always did have the strongest voice in the band, tonight he doesn’t disappoint, outshining the others whenever he takes lead.
The set is a 50/50 split of old and new songs, and despite their latest album failing to make it in the Top 10, their new tracks are still greeted with an enthusiastic response. Three boys in the front row of the balcony particularly seem to be enjoying the new songs, as they stand up whilst everyone else is sat down, link arms, sing the lyrics word for word and sway in time with the music. Their apparent lack of embarrassment is commendable in the female heavy crowd.
As the band arrive back on stage for the encore, the infamous opening to What I Go To School For resonates around the building, resulting in deafening screams and the odd sound of crying. It really does feel like no time has passed since the song that made them famous first came out.
Those Days Are Gone is a clever choice of song to close with. Not only do the lyrics “well those days are gone” allude to the time passed since Busted burst onto the scene as baby faced teenagers, finishing on a new song gives the impression that this band want to be taken seriously for their new music and not simply remembered for their timeless hits.
As the canons are fired and a cloud of silver confetti descends on the audience, the night draws to a close, leaving the fans beaming from ear to ear. The show on the whole is a success and no doubt leaves the audience feeling like they’ve been transported back to their teenage years. Who knows if Busted will tour again or write another album, but for now, the fans are simply happy enough that they’ve been able to see their favourite childhood band perform live once again, something that at one point looked like nothing more than a dream.