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The Blanks At Moho Live Review

Mark Jorgensen likes the Scrubs barbershop quartet but can’t say they same for their choice of venue

Written by . Published on June 29th 2011.

The Blanks At Moho Live Review

AN OLD flatmate of mine used to watch an American TV show called Scrubs and I passively recall adown-trodden looking lawyer character being part of a barbershop quartet.

It wasn’t until an email dropped into my inbox last week inviting me to watch them at Moho Live I discovered they were an actual group called The Blanks. I was expecting a quirky, subdued affair.

It really should have been held in a seated venue with a raised stage, such as the Lowry. Moho Live may be a suitable venue for an array of different gigs, but comedy based acapella is certainly not one of them

Not so. The huge snaking queue round the block suggested I’d underestimated The Blanks' pull. It was also perhaps the most diverse group of people I’ve ever seen at a gig.

“Hello, I’m here to collect my press pass for a review for Manchester Confidential.”

“It’s not press pass mate, it’s guestlist, so you’ll have to join the back of the queue.”

At risk of sounding like a cosseted media type, expecting special treatment, for the purposes of  reviews - particularly in a small venue - it’s important to get a decent vantage point to take pictures and that’s why press passes are there.  

Never mind. I toddled off for a drink, to return just before The Blanks were due on stage.

Once inside, hundreds of people packed inside the long and low-ceilinged venue, and I tussled through the crowd to find space to stand without having a claustrophobic seizure. I took refuge at the back. I was fascinated to see the group who had commanded this amount of people, being shoehorned into a small,sweltering, space.

The lights went down to a chorus of cheers, and via a film trailer style introduction The Blanks took to the stage. Apparently the opening song was called ‘Underdog’ but I couldn’t realy hear it too well, making my introduction to The Blanks hugely underwhelming. Even more strange, however, were the rest of the crowd.

Aside from the first ten or so rows, who were clearly massive fans, the main reason I couldn’t hear was the audience - standing around talking as though having after-work drinks. Astonishingly, the same people then dished out whooping rapturous applause after each song.

Very few of them appeared to be listening though. Strange. Managing to perch on a step at the bar, I caught the group announcing they were to perform ‘the four greatest songs ever written’.

Blankspromo-CredittheblanksIncluded within the ironic medley of far more than four songs was a rendition of ‘Flipper’, a beautifully sung harmony of ‘Over the Rainbow’, and a self-penned tribute song to Brit-strip flick ‘The Full Monty’, interspersed with comedy shorts. These may have been genuinely funny, but each sketch felt a bit repetitive.

Then my own personal nightmare. When my flatmate used to watch Scrubs, I did find it quite funny, but tried my best to avoid it specifically due the nauseating theme tune of Superman. The Blanks performed a cover, with half of the audience singing along.

A redeeming moment was a cover of Flashdance hit Maniac - a song with lyrics so inherently bizarre that Geoffrey Boycott could read them and I would still laugh my brain out through my nostrils.

The encore was pretty amusing with a medley of pop songs including Rihanna, Katy Perry and Cee-lo Green. I retrospectively watched a video of this on YouTube and it’s undeniable that seeing these songs performed dead-pan by four blokes resembling a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses is hilarious. For me though, it was too little to late.

The majority of the audience seemed to enjoy the show so kudos to The Blanks for that. I actually like the format and idea of a comedic barbershop quartet and they are unquestionably good, yet unlikely-looking, which enhances the ironic humour of the act.

To fully appreciate (and actually hear) a group like this, it really should have been held in a seated venue with a raised stage. Moho Live may be a suitable venue for an array of different gigs, but comedy-based acapella isn't one of them. It just didn’t work.

One final thing, I spotted a staircase overlooking the stage so I asked the security guy whether I could pop up there briefly to take a couple of pictures. “Nah, it’s booked out mate," was the reply. They must be VIP stairs, so if you’re looking for somewhere really special to take the other half this weekend…..

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MarkJorgy shared this on Facebook on June 29th 2011.
MarkJorgy shared this on Facebook on June 29th 2011.
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