Usually fans attending a McFly concert expect, in the words of frontman Danny Jones, to leave “entertained, hearts racing, with smiles that will last for months”. However, it’s no lie that the fans attending the Nottingham Motorpoint Arena show did not know what to expect after lead guitarist and vocalist Tom Fletcher tested positive for Covid-19 just days before - meaning that he would not be playing alongside bandmates Danny, bassist Dougie Poynter and drummer Harry Judd. Beth Walker explored how the band fared in these unprecedented circumstances.
I’d attended a show earlier in the Young Dumb Thrills tour at Leeds First Direct Arena and the atmosphere had been euphoric: the four piece certainly know how to put on a show. However, even I had my doubts about how they would be able to play without Tom Fletcher’s vocals. For perspective, McFly’s producer Jason Perry once distinguished Tom’s vocal range from Danny’s, deeming them “a saxophone in comparison to a trombone”. Anyone familiar with McFly’s music will note the accuracy of this distinction, and therefore the issue raised by Fletcher’s absence.
As the support act Chinchilla (an upcoming female artist who could be compared to the likes of Ella Eyre) performed her energetic set, anticipation rippled through the arena. I even heard a couple in front of me querying whether they should have just sold their tickets.
"The crowd went wild for the rarer, more punk-pop sound of Dougie Poynter covering the lead vocals of Fletcher"
However, the crowd’s attention was soon captured as the lights dimmed and a video clip played, showing the iconic pink pistola bear from the cover of McFly’s latest album Young Dumb Thrills wandering about backstage, pressing buttons haphazardly and activating a countdown that started onscreen and then was matched by the shouts of excited fans. On zero, the curtain fell and Danny Jones strummed his guitar, the sound echoing amongst the screams and cheers. They wasted no time in kicking off the set with Star Girl, a hit from their 2006 album Motion in the Ocean, and the crowd went wild for the rarer, more punk-pop sound of Dougie Poynter covering the lead vocals of Fletcher.
It soon became obvious that, despite the show being not quite the same with Tom Fletcher missing, the music had not suffered. The trio transitioned between songs old and new, ranging from sing-a-long classics like Obviously and I’ll Be Okay to new singles Happiness and Growing Up. The setlist had changed slightly, replacing Tom’s more niche song Broccoli for Dougie’s lead on number one single Transylvania, but this was welcomed by all. Ever the comedians, the three made light of Tom Fletcher having to miss the show, and interacted humbly with the crowd between songs as if they were old friends.
But McFly never let their audience get comfortable for too long. In the middle of the set, they disappeared offstage, leaving the crowd to murmur in confusion at where they had gone. Red light suddenly flooded the arena and, as though out of nowhere, Danny Jones was stood metres behind me on the B Stage, below a microphone descended from an illuminated red cord dangling from the arena ceiling. He grabbed the mic and strutted around the stage as he performed Red, a song from the latest album, throwing the microphone into the crowd on every guitar riff before the cord swung back to him. He performed a few acoustic songs before Poynter then joined him on the B Stage to perform POV, this being the third time ever that he had performed live with an acoustic guitar rather than his familiar turquoise bass guitar. Aside from the music, you could have heard a pin drop in the arena: the crowd was mesmerised by the rawness of their vocals on this 2008 hit from the radio:ACTIVE album.
Back on the main stage, the second part of the show commenced as Jones and Poynter were reunited with drummer Harry Judd, and a colossal version of the pink bear from the album had appeared onstage – shooting beams of light from its eyes into the audience. Once more, songs new and old were played, cannons were fired, sparkles were shot into the air and McFly, though a man down, delivered.
Of particular note was a single they released while on tour, Dragonball, an unreleased demo that they have resurrected and is now available to stream online. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how wild the crowd went for this song, showing just how relevant McFly remain to today’s music scene. The band disappeared after Shine A Light, but any McFly fan knows better than to trust the first time McFly leave the stage …
"When he changed the line "I’m here forever" to "McFly’s here forever", I don’t think there was a single person in the arena that didn’t believe him"
Returning for an encore, Jones, Poynter and Judd ran back onstage and met the demand of the fans’ “one more song!” with in fact three more songs. Without Fletcher on the piano, Danny Jones fronted the 2007 single The Heart Never Lies, giving it a rockier sound, but when he changed the line "I’m here forever" to "McFly’s here forever", I don’t think there was a single person in the arena that didn’t believe him.
This sentimentality was soon lost, however, as he had the whole audience jumping up and down to their first ever number one hit, Five Colours In Her Hair, while multicoloured confetti seemed to pour from the heavens. The audience seemed so in awe of the energy shaking through the arena that, when the song finished, most had forgotten about the infamous. The McFly boys finished the show on this number and the crowd sang along, word for word, not a person without a smile on their face – we had truly been entertained.
I was lucky enough to meet Judd outside of the Motorpoint Arena, where he humbly conversed with myself and a few other fans and asked how we’d enjoyed the show. He told us to make sure we had tickets for their upcoming concert ‘One Night Only … Again!’ at the London O2 Arena on the 21st of November. So, to anybody who wants a night of fun, energetic, sing-a-long music – the London O2 on a Sunday night in November is Obviously the place to be!
Written by: Beth Walker
Edited by: Gemma Cockrell
Featured image courtesy of McFly via Facebook.