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LIVE: McFly @ O2 Academy Bristol 23/10/23

I’ve seen a few bands this year but there’s nothing quite like seeing your childhood favourite band take to stage in a 1500 cap venue - it just makes the whole experience a little different than your usual gig, and I’m sure many had the same thoughts as me. In celebration of their recent album release, long-time pop-rockers McFly took to Bristol’s O2 Academy for the second night on Tuesday. Considering their last tour took to arenas, this was an intimate ordeal for them and their fans, really embracing the true spirit of rock and roll - which is what they’ve written about in their recent record Power To Play.

They straddle both worlds of pop and rock but what’s most apparent is their refusal to grow up. They may have gone extreme with the hair gel and the studded belts back in the day, and they may now be grown-up family men, but they still know how to have fun; they’re youthful, they’re exciting, and they’re still McFly at their very best.

The moment the support band left the stage, the room filled with anticipation, as the crew took to setting everything up, bursts of excitement bounced off the walls of the venue - they had been waiting, and now it was almost time. Bon Jovi's 'Livin On A Prayer’ had the crowd shrilling throughout the room, ramping up the excitement before the foursome hit the stage. With the stance of a guitar maestro and one swing of his hand, Fletcher kickstarted the night with ‘Where Did All The Guitars Go?’, the first single from their record and one that showcased McFly honouring their love of guitar-driven bangers - it’s the most authentic we’ve ever seen them.

It was a joyous set to watch, as they transported the audience back to the early noughties and relished every moment on stage. They showcased a perfect blend of their greatest hits, seamlessly transitioning from Star Girl to Happiness then Obviously amongst new tracks such as Land of the Bees and Route 55.

The audience ranged from long-time devotees to newcomers, all there to simply enjoy the music. Among them were the die-hards, those who had spent all day queuing, some spending hundreds on following the tour, and some proudly raising their hands when Danny inquired if they had attended the previous night’s show. There were three VERY enthusiastic girls in front of me engaging in friendly competition to showcase their knowledge on the band. One quipped “I’ve got everyone’s heights memorised, except Dougie’s,” later turning to Google to fill in the missing piece of information. Needless to say I even know Dougie’s height now. It goes to show that over the last two decades, the band still has that hold over their fans - both new and old.

Danny's raspy voice blended effortlessly with Fletcher's distinctive sound, accompanied by a chorus of voices, as "Honey I'm Home" cast a poignant aura over the venue. This performance demonstrated their growth, their evolution, and their genuine mastery in the art of storytelling. On the subject of storytelling, they brought out co-writer Steven Battelle of LostAlone, who supported, injecting a bit of grit and a captivating edge into the night with an electrifying performance of Shine On.

They return to stage for the final time that night, with a few ‘Do do do do do do’s signalling ‘Five Colours In Her Hair’; it’s a moment of pure joy and nostalgia for anyone watching, as the boys throw themselves around the stage, the camaraderie on top form and the love of what they do evident. The night was pure unadulterated fun, and was a defiant return to what they’ve held onto for years; Power To Play takes their raw, rock sensibilities and amplifies it tenfold, producing a record that captures their true love. McFly may not be the ‘God’s of Rock and Roll’, but they certainly do a good job in keeping the torch lit.

Words: Tate Powell @tatepowellx


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