Blackfield return to the UK for a short tour and most notably without main collaborator Steven Wilson. This has caused quite a stir on social media with many fans openly stating that they would not attend without his involvement. This is perhaps reflected in the downgrading of the venue from The Ritz to the 150 capacity Soup Kitchen. Some of those with tickets didn't turn up either, no doubt partly due to the horrendous events at Manchester Arena just a couple of days earlier. So what we get is a small but very partisan crowd and those that made the effort were richly rewarded.
This was always going to be an emotional gig coming so close to the Arena bombing but when main man Aviv Geffen and the rest of the band all come out wearing I Love MCR shirts and there are 22 t-light candles on the keyboard, then it hits home once again. Whilst there's plenty of welling up, there's also an immense respect and spirit of unity between band and crowd and the gesture will long be remembered.
It's a fairly low key start to the set with the melancholy Faking building slowly into the kind of epic break that has become one of Blackfield's signature moves. It doesn't take the band long to get into their stride and from here on in it's pretty much a greatest hits of Blackfield, with the odd Aviv Geffen solo track thrown in. For the detractors, it's perhaps easy to overlook Geffen's contribution to Blackfield but you can't ignore the fact that he wrote 90% of their most recent, and best, album V. There is a good sprinkling of songs from that album in the set tonight and whilst it's hard to pick a highlight given the overall strength in depth, it's probably We'll Never Be Apart that takes it.
There are some surprising additions such as After the Rain from Blackfield IV coupled with a really good mix of styles from the hauntingly beautiful Glow to the melancholy Jupiter and the more upbeat Oxygen. The band are great and there seems to be a real chemistry between them all. As a result it comes across as a professional and slick performance with just enough crowd interaction to give it a little intimacy. Geffen really shines, taking on all vocal parts and switching between guitar and keyboards when required. The encore is quite glorious with End of the World followed by Blackfield's old signature tune It's Cloudy Now that builds to the perfect crescendo, ending what has been a surprisingly short set (not long over the hour mark).
The only disappointment of the night is that there is no performance of the rousing Family Man from the most recent album but that aside, it was a superb set from an underrated songwriter who proved that he needs nobody by his side to turn in a truly memorable performance.