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Live: BUSTED // The SSE Arena, Wembley

Playing Wembley for the 17th time in their career, the band took us on a trip down memory lane and “back to the future” in classic Busted style.

Busted - Wembley - GIG GOER - 2019

“I just realised that we’ve now been in this band longer than the first time”, laughs Matt halfway through the show. As carefree as it may sound, the weight of passing time seems to be piercing through, as the days long gone linger in the memory of all those gathered at Wembley Arena on Saturday night. If you lived through the glorious era of Top Of The Pops and portable CD players, in the times when MTV was considered an esteemed music source, and Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were the world’s favourite couple, then I’m sure you remember the impact Busted had on pop rock culture in the early noughties. It was monumental and undeniable. 

For anyone who feels like they grew up with the band, the journey that started out with the release of their self-titled debut album in 2002 has been a priceless experience. And although many hearts broke into pieces on the sad day when Busted announced their split in 2005, even more were mended when we heard the news about the band’s reunion.

Returning with their third album Night Driver in 2016, it marked an evident shift in sound as the trio leaned more towards synth-infused soundscapes and electro-pop elements. However, their latest record Half Way There is a real game changer. Reflective and more profound, the album is a nostalgia-driven body of work that finds the band going back to their pop punk roots. Sounding more like them than ever before, it appears like they’ve finally come to terms with the past and are ready to take the next step.

Holding the record of the band to play the most consecutive sellout dates at Wembley Arena (11 nights in 2004), tonight’s show feels like a warm homecoming. Treating us to an array of old school fan favourites and recent material, nostalgia is a leading theme for the night, with a stunning visual spectacle as an accompaniment. Being drawn to the silhouettes of three figures standing behind the giant curtain, the show is about to begin.

From the get-go, we’re being taken back in time to the beloved Nineties as the rush of building up instrumentals channels the palpable energy of the buzzing crowd. The images of the band sporting retro outfits are being displayed on the screens, as we re-live the good old days of watching The Goonies and Macaulay Culkin and ‘rocking out to Smashing Pumpkins’.

With massive clocks counting down the time to the year 1985 and 2002 throughout the set, the songs taken from their certified multi-platinum sophomore album, A Present For Everyone, are met with loud screams. Air Hostess, Falling For You and the absolute hit Crashed The Wedding, all are a great reminder of how sleek their three-way vocal harmonies sound in the live setting. Following the blazing Thunderbirds Are Go, James sits down behind the piano while Charlie switches to an acoustic guitar, saying: “We made this album for you guys”. As All My Friends hits us with its sentimental hooks, the pensive mood sinks in, only to be magnified by a cover of Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty. What a moment this is.

The new songs blend perfectly with a classic Busted repertoire; Reunion is a masterful play between bone-crunching guitars and fast-paced drums, whilst Radio charms us with a melodic core and a singalong chorus, both bringing forth the nostalgic tone. On the other hand, Shipwrecked In Atlantis is a high-kicking tune which is said to be Matt’s “favourite Busted song ever, ever, ever”. Accompanied by the official music video which was shot in Dubai (James’ happy place from what we’re told), the track accelerates the dynamics of the show even more.

With some proper old school Busted vibes, Britney makes the cut of course, and so does Sleeping With The Light On, with the latter creating the most special moment of the whole set. Setting Wembley on fire, quite literally and metaphorically, thousands of flash lights are being waved back and forth, a great juxtaposition to the pyro effects which go off on stage at the same time. What’s more, the crowd is singing back every lyric, making the band stop for a while just to embrace the moment.

In spite of Charlie forgetting his opening lines of What I Go To School For, the show is sure to be remembered by both the die-hard fans and the new ones for a long time. As What Happened To Your Band hits the ether, the visual edit of the band’s photos spanning their entire career sets an emotional tone and some tears are being shed here and there. The electrifying riffs in You Said No and anthemic 3am round off the main set.

Bringing a grand finale to the show, the band returns for suitably titled Coming Home, whose arena-size choruses fit the venue perfectly. Next, the clocks speed up before locking in on the Year 3000. The last song is no surprise for anyone, yet it’s the one we all have been waiting for. It’s still such a bop, isn’t it? And as I try to make my way out of the restless crowd, it’s obvious that after all this time Busted still rock our hearts.

“‘Cause things turn out alright if you believe they might”, as they sing in one of the songs on their new album, It Happens. Sometimes people just click, and sometimes they fall apart. But very often they find their way back. Bearing in mind the band’s top-charting hit Year 3000 and the reference to the release of their seventh album, we’re half way there and I’m positive we won’t have to wait long until Busted headline Wembley again.

Photos: Kasia Osowiecka