Review | The Boo Radleys at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea: 'Good to have them back – and moving forward'

The return of The Boo Radleys has been one of the more unexpected, if pleasant, surprises for indie fans of a certain vintage.

Saturday, 23rd April 2022, 12:17 pm

Once they knocked it on the head in 1999 and went their separate ways it seemed that was it.

And even when frontman Sice Rowbottom and bassist/producer Tim Brown began writing together again they initially planned to put the material out under another name. With drummer Rob Cieka on board, it was three-quarters of the line-up together again.

But a new Boos album, Keep on With Falling, their first since 1998's apparent swan song, Kingsize, arrived last month, and the rejuvenated band hit the road with their UK tour ending here, at The Wedgewood Rooms.

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The Boo Radleys at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on April 22, 2022. Picture by Paul Windsor

There is always a risk attached when any beloved band returns after a lengthy absence that they could tarnish their legacy (I'm looking at you Pixies...), so this was a gamble – particularly as guitarist and main songwriter Martin Carr declined to be involved.

If parts of the new album fall a little flat, in a live setting, stacked up alongside the rest of their material the songs makes more sense. I've Had Enough I'm Out and the title track Keep on With Falling reveal themselves to be potential future fan favourites.

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Rowbottom's voice remains entirely capable of breaking your heart while the rhythm section are tight without being flashy.

The Boo Radleys at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on April 22, 2022. Picture by Paul Windsor

The core trio is joined live by guitarist Louis Smith and and keys/trumpet player Nick Etwell in a set that draws liberally on the new album but also reaches all the way back to their 1991 Every Heaven EP (the track The Finest Kiss), and makes numerous stops off at most points in between.

They kick off with a pair of tracks from their 1993 masterpiece Giant Steps – Barney (and Me) and Wishing I Was Skinny – before playing Find The Answer Within from their sole number one album, 1995’s Wake Up! An album Rowbottom jokingly refers to as 'no one's favourite Boo Radleys album.'

While they play a smattering of their singles, they also go for a few hardcore fan-pleasing deep cuts – like Spaniard from their second album Everything's Alright Forever.

We even get a cover of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass.

The Boo Radleys at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on April 22, 2022. Picture by Paul Windsor

The room may only be half-full, but those in attendance are certainly enthusiastic, and the band – Rowbottom in particular are in good humour. When someone from the audience inevitably shouts for Martin Carr, Rowbottom deftly deflects it by feigning he heard them calling for their song Martin, Doom!

After playing perhaps their greatest song, Lazarus – propelled to its climax by Etwell's trumpet, Rowbottom announces that they're not going to bother leaving the stage and will just plough on with the encores.

Somewhat inevitably they finish with Wake Up, Boo! Even after all this time and the radio overkill back in the day, it remains an effervescent, summery, dopamine hit of a song.

Always one of the more under-rated acts of the Britpop era, it's good to have them back – and moving forward, not just trading on former glories as they could so easily do.

That said, at one point Rowbottom asks if we would come to a show where they play all of Giant Steps. The response is an emphatic: ‘Yes!’

Here's wishing.