Following the release of his latest album Once Upon a Mind in October 2019, Blunt set on a world tour. With his single ‘Halfway’ being launched just days before his performance at the Utilita Arena on Monday 17 February, it seemed only natural for the single’s collaborators Ward Thomas to accompany him as a support act. An English modern country-pop duo who just happen to be twins, Ward Thomas has been credited as one of the only British bands to see success in a genre greatly dominated by American singers and bands. Their set created a very soothing tone for the rest of the night and, despite the size of the arena, created a very intimate vibe, almost creating the illusion that the audience were merely joining them for a set at a small country pub.
Blunt started his set with ‘How It Feels to Be Alive’, and throughout the night played a range of both his biggest hits and new songs. Classics from Back to Bedlam punctuated the night, with four tracks from his debut album (‘High’, ‘You’re Beautiful’, ‘Wisemen’, ‘Goodbye My Lover’) being well received by the audience. Fans also sang along to his other hits such as ‘1973’ and ‘Stay the Night’, with the performance being made all the grander by the colourful lights and display screens. Songs from Once Upon a Mind also landed well, with Ward Thomas returning to the stage for ‘Halfway’. Blunt’s performance of ‘Monsters’ in particular created a very sharp contrast to the peppy pop rhythms of his other songs, with the poignant heart-felt lyrics (we're just two grown men saying goodbye; while you're sleeping, I'll try to make you proud) and on-screen imagery of his life with his father eliciting a more pensive atmosphere.
Blunt utilised the intervals between songs to engage the audience with his sharp wit as well as recalling his personal connections to Newcastle and memories of touring overseas. Blunt even made quips about his own reputation, ultimately coming across as very down-to-earth, and sympathised with those who had been bought the gig tickets as Valentine’s presents. He joked about Elton John encouraging him when he first started out to play his hits at concerts, but that for him that would simply mean playing 'You're Beautiful' 22 times in a row.
The gig provided the perfect mix of his hits and new material with a balance of both sentimental and upbeat songs, and his personality shone through. After 15 years of waiting, I wasn’t disappointed.