Live Review: 2019 Fireball – Fuelling The Fire Tour, The Ritz, Manchester, UK, 23rd September 2019

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2019 Fireball – Fuelling The Fire Tour

The Ritz, Manchester, UK - 23rd September 2019

Tonight marks the welcome return of the Fireball – Fuelling The Fire Tour on its annual stop off at The Ritz in Manchester, as ever the tour is sponsored by Fireball Whisky and boasts an impressive five band line that features three of the mainstays of the ska punk scene Less Than Jake, Goldfinger and Save Ferris, with support from Thieves Of Liberty ‘Fireball’s Hottest Band 2019‘, and the winner of the open call to local bands, Well Done You. What’s almost as impressive as tonight’s line up is the fact that tickets for tonight’s show were around £20, which given the three headline acts alone is good value by anyone’s standards, add free shots of Fireball into the mix and Scuzz TV‘s Matt Stocks spinning the tunes between bands and you have an unbeatable combination. The Fireball – Fuelling The Fire Tour is always something that is always marked in our diary as it brings a package that pairs some of the best band’s from the US punk scene with up and coming home grown bands. Due to volume of bands on the line up the start time is ridiculously early, but as ever we always try and catch the opening bands of any show we attend.

It’s clear today that Autumn has descended and Manchester is now living up to its reputation as the rainy city, a horde of umbrellas are on display which makes walking anywhere slow and potentially painful but we manage to hit The Ritz just ahead of Well Done You’s opening set where they are one of contenders for Fireball’s Hottest Band 2020. Their heavyweight pop punk is slightly out of sync with the ska infused headliners but the five piece give it their all, but it must said they are up against stiff competition with the likes of Frank Grimes And The Disasters, Millie Manders And The Shutup and Weatherstate appearing on other dates of the tour.

As is traditional free Fireball is flowing, which makes me regret driving, and Matt Stocks is spinning the tunes between bands, a soundtrack that is dominated by American punk veterans mirroring the annual Fireball- Fuelling The Fire line up whose headliners have always made the journey across the Atlantic. Next up is last years winners and Fireball’s Hottest Band of 2019 Thieves Of Liberty. Making their way individually into the stage and building their sound the female fronted quartet deliver a sound that is more rock than punk rock but don’t let that put you off, fine solid driving rhythms and stunning vocals grab your attention and builds the atmosphere nicely ahead of the vintage ska punk trio that are co-headlining this years Fireball -Fuelling The Fire Tour.

Ahead of the appearance of Save Ferris the soundtrack takes a distinctly ska fuelled turn, something which sets the tone perfectly for tonight’s first headliner. I think pretty much everyone knows Save Ferris for their cover of the eighties pop hit “Come On Eileen” but there is so much more to them than that, as you’d expect of a ska band Save Ferris are animated, but at times tonight they border on hyperactive. Their brand of feel good ska punk sounds as fresh as the first time I heard them back in the mists of time. Lead singer Monique Powell steadily sheds layers throughout their set making you wonder just how many outfits someone can wear at the same time, and their set sees The Ritz’s sprung dancefloor get its first, but not its last, proper workout of the night.

There is more than a touch of theatrically and burlesque about Save Ferris’s mix of swing, ska and punk. they make no bones about being a fun band just wanting to have a good time and their set is the perfect soundtrack for this. They liberally sprinkle their set with covers including Operation Ivy, Dead Kennedys, Dexys Midnight Runners and Reel Big Fish, the latter being “She’s Got A Girlfriend Now” that Monique Powell originally sang on, it also see’s an appearance mid song by Goldfinger‘s John Feldman. A perfect set that leaves many wishing they had been headlining, and leaves even more wishing their visits to the UK weren’t as infrequent. Joyous, uplifting party music, nothing more, nothing less, and delivered faultlessly, if you weren’t smiling by the end of their set then there’s something wrong with you.

Prior to Goldfinger’s appearance “free shit” is thrown into the crowd that keeps the party atmosphere going and judging by the number of people drunkenly bouncing off me and the increasing amount of spilled beer around The Ritz it’s becoming clear that many don’t care that it’s a Monday and this is clearly going to a problem for Tuesday morning, or maybe afternoon. Goldfinger‘s appearance is preceded by Queen’s We Are The Champions before they launch into “Spokesman” and the capacity crowd responds with beers and fists raised aloft. The impeccably suited and booted outfit clearly aren’t going to be upstaged by Save Ferris’s theatrical antics and they deliver a set of anthemic bouncy ska punk, where the emphasis is more towards the punk, that hits the spot.

This Is Goldfinger’s 42nd visit to Manchester, quite how I’ve managed to miss the previous 41 is beyond me and I’ll add that to my list of life’s regrets, they are the perfect band to follow Save Ferris, the feel good element is still to the fore and they ensure that The Ritz’s dancefloor gets another workout. As with the previous band there is a lot of audience participation and storytelling that punctuates their set, lead singer John Feldman descends into the pit and is surfed across the crowd before returning to the stage. Of course it wouldn’t be a ska punk set without a cover or two, Blur’s “Song 2” is thrown Into the crowd pleasing set that includes a deliriously received “Superman” before their much loved version of Nena‘s “99 Red Balloons” kicks things into overdrive in the sweaty and beer soaked Ritz before they march off stage whilst playing a thunderous heavy metal riff.

Finally we are left with Less Than Jake on what has been another triumphant Fireball – Fuelling The Fire  tour that mixes up and coming UK punk bands with some of the best established acts from the US. It’s clear that expectations have been raised given the two sets that preceded their appearance but tonight’s crowd are clearly in the mood to keep the party going and Less Than Jake rise to the occasion. Seemingly unchanged, doing what they do best and clearly loving every second of it, every song sees a flurry of arms, pints In the air and a frantic pit due to the early part of their set being culled from their glory days, when ska punk competed against pop punk for dominance of the airwaves.

The party continues with members of the crowd brought on stage to dance and a red suited skanking skull, that resembles a happier version of Captain America’s nemesis, volleys beach balls into the crowd. It comes as something of a relief when they throw a few slower ska tracks into the mix to allow the crowd to recover before they launch back into the hyperactive ska punk they’re best known for. It’s probably been two decades since I last saw Less Than Jake and it’s like nothing has changed, they possess the same energy, humour and spirit and it’s clear exactly why Less Than Jake are closing this years Fireball-Fuelling The Fire tour, personally I couldn’t pick a favourite as each set by the headline acts has been perfect with each offering their own take on ska fuelled punk.

By the end of the night my converse are soaked through in what I can only hope is beer and my left knee may never quite recover, whether it does or not we’ll be back next year as the Fireball – Fuelling The Fire tour is now etched into our diary’s along with the Rebellion Festival and the Manchester Punk Festival. What this offers is an unmissable annual event that puts new talent into a large venue alongside established acts and showcases them to a crowd that is tailor made for them, add to this perfect sound and a faultless DJ set from Matt Stocks and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect night, if I have anything to do with it I won’t be driving next year.

Live photography courtesy of Matthew O’Toole, his Adept Photography website can be found here. You can click on any of the photos to view a slide show of the images