Blazin' Squad / Tommi - Manchester Apollo - 10.5.03

Blazin Squad have started with an advantage before they've even hit the stage. The age old trick of bringing out support bands that are so atrocious death would be preferable.

What they didn't count on was Tommi, a group of five Sporty Spice butch lasses who are so bad they're actually good. With the first single "Like What", members called Bambi and Peekaboo amongst their ranks plus the fact it's entirely probable that every single member has either worked in a backstreet chippy or played in a girls football team it seems all our dreams have come true. Why is this great? Because as fun as it was to take the p*ss out of Melanie C and Ginger Nicola from Girls Aloud we can have 5 times as much fun with these girls and they're all currently residing in the Kingdom of Mingdom.

Blazin Squad are a band who straddle the Urban / Pop fence with the sort of professionalism of seasoned veterans and it's easy to see why they've simultaneous gained the respect of So Solid Crew and won the hearts of the predominantly teenage female audience tonight. Kicking off tonight's show with "Bounce" it showcases the two MC-ing talents of the band in Spike-E and Flava bringing in members seemingly according to the Gary Barlow Talent Vs Looks ratio which essentially means that the two pin-ups Kenzie and Strider are brought on last accounting for their lack of skills on the mike. Naturally each fan has their favourite and in front our your correspondent we spot the home made signs "Baker - Lets Make Some Cakes" for Reepa (real name Stuart Baker) and "Ollie - we love your eyebrows" for Freek (Ed: Designer Magazine actually thought of some alternatives which are probably too rude to print, but feel free to post your own on our message board....and if you can think of any for our favourite member Melo D do let us know). What really set's the Squad apart from the rest of the boy bands is that their fans simply don't understand the urban flow. They may dance like J-Lo and name drop Lisa Maffia but they're simply not digging the pop rehash of Wu Tang on "All About The Music" or the garage beats of debut single "Standard Flow". What they're really here for is the Urban-lite of "Crossroads", "Love On The Line" and Reminisce", but what i'm here for are those deeper moments such as "Where The Story Ends" mixing lush harmonies with tales of street life and avoiding the drugs and racism and in my mind the run ins with the po po.

It's hard to believe that it's just a year since these guys released their first single, but the tour is an opportunity to preview some new album tracks for the fans. At the time of going to press the titles are a bit sketchy, but "All U Gotta Do Is Run" takes the dark beats the true fans love while "Hold On" seems to be an us against the world track whether that is the band or a lover. New single which we thought was called "Ring Ring", but is apparently called "We Dreemin" is the best thing the guys have done to date with a pure chilled out summer vibe and possible contender for single of the year so far. Sadly though they have to let us down with the obligatory cover version and instead of choosing a old skool hip-hop joint (PM Dawn's "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" or The Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff's "Summertime" would have been perfect) they deliver East 17's "Steam".

The Blazin Squad live experience is one with no need for extravagant sets or upteen costume changes (Ed: Costume changes number 1 from the dreadful all white public school look to the mucho improved all black), they've got the talent and the skills to let the music speak for itself and with time they're going to be credible and major players in the UK Urban scene either as a band or as solo artists.

Alex McCann

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