HomeMusicBusted, The O2, London live review

Busted, The O2, London live review

It’s two decades – yes really – since Busted first arrived on the UK music scene with ‘What I Go To School For’, which reached number three on the UK charts. Since then they’ve released a further seven top 10 singles, four studio albums and played a string of sell-out shows around the country as well as internationally. Now, to celebrate their 20th anniversary, they’re about to release their ‘Greatest Hits 2.0’, which sees them reworking their hits alongside artists from the world of pop and rock including Simple Plan, All Time Low and Hanson. They’re also currently out on a mammoth 26-date tour, including three stops at London’s O2 Arena – the first of which was last night.

After a five minute warning from Stephen Fry, a musical warmup of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ and ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC, and a video intro from Christopher Lloyd as Doctor Emmett Brown, the band arrived on stage silhouetted against the big screens to cheers so loud they practically took the roof off the O2. They kicked off their set with ‘Air Hostess’, and right away the whole room was on their feet (where they stayed for the rest of the night) singing and dancing along. That energy was absolutely reflected on stage, with Matt and James running along the walkways and spinning around as Charlie encouraged the crowd to sing along, although to be fair they didn’t need much help with that! To me that song is the essence of Busted – cheeky, playful and a whole lot of fun – and it provided an absolutely perfect start to the show.

What followed was a 90-minute run through the band’s greatest hits, picked exclusively from their first two albums, as well as a lively, grungy duet on ‘MMMBop’ with support act Hanson which was basically a dream come true for every 90s kid in the building. I also particularly liked the nods to the band’s history in the video screens of old Nokia phones and MSN Messenger-style chat boxes alongside clips from their early years, as well as the lyrical tweaks on tracks like ‘Loser Kid’ (“takes me back to 2003”) and ‘What I Go To School For’ (“so she may be 53”), which also saw some hilarious Polaroid-effect graphics. However, it wasn’t entirely a nostalgia-fest either – many of the tracks got updated to their 2.0 versions, particularly ‘Meet You There’ which featured a driving, pop punk-influenced sound that was a complete departure from the original.

Perhaps surprisingly, some of the standout moments came on the slower songs. ‘Sleeping With The Light On’, which saw James playing acoustic guitar as the crowd lit up the room with their phones and sang along to its anthemic chorus, was an early highlight that saw Matt declare, “that was beautiful, I think I’m in love”. New song ‘Good One’ was also a strong moment, with its anthemic earworm of a chorus that’s guaranteed to stick in your head and showed off a slightly different direction for the band with its slightly 80s sound before the first pyrotechnics of the night kicked in. Elsewhere, Charlie got the opportunity to show off his vocal chops on a heavier, reworked version of ‘3am’ which at one point saw him hit a note that was almost a scream in terms of its power and delivery (and saw Matt dropping to his knees at the song) in front of a dramatic flame effect, as well as hitting a massive note on the fiery kiss-off song ‘You Said No’.

That said, there was still plenty of room for the more uptempo, high-energy songs too. ‘Falling For You’ saw the trio running along the walkway waving to fans without breaking a sweat or missing a line of the humorous lyrics as smoke machines went off in the background before finishing the song with a guitar riff-off, whilst they got the chance to rock out on the fast-paced, rapid-fire ‘She Wants To Be Me’, which saw Charlie tossing his hair as Matt leapt about the stage. I also loved seeing the three of interact with each other on stage, whether that was cracking jokes about the box office success (or lack thereof) of ‘Thunderbirds’ before launching into a driving version of ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ or taking the mick out of McFly in the intro to the biting ‘Who’s David’. It’s clear they get along really well and are having an absolute whale of a time performing together – as Matt himself said, “I f***ing love being in Busted”.

The band closed the main portion of the show with ‘Crashed The Wedding’, after Matt delivered an incredibly heartfelt speech about making plans for the tour and how surprised they were by the response – it’s now the biggest UK arena tour of 2023 – as well as declaring “we’re the happiest we’ve ever been and it’s all thanks to you beautiful people… thank you from the bottom of our hearts”. The song itself really summed up the entire show – thrashing guitars and drums, an exuberant performance from the trio as they ran around the stage and the original video played in the background, and 20,000 people singing as loud as they could (plus more pyrotechnics at the end!). As they left the stage the crowd roared and stomped in demand for another song, and they returned with a clip from their Brit Award win before a raucous performance of the Undertones’ classic ‘Teenage Kicks’. To round out the night, it was – what else? – ‘Year 3000’, with yet another Christopher Lloyd intro and the band encouraging the crowd to “‘get low down, we’re gonna jump” as they belted out the song and leapt around the stage, then launched confetti over the crowd. They revved up the audience for one huge final cheer and could be spotted hugging fans before going into a long drawn-out guitar riff to send everyone on their way with an utterly euphoric moment.

Overall Busted delivered, in their own words, ‘an awesome show’. At the start of the set, Matt asked the crowd, “wanna jump up and down and lose our minds?” and they absolutely took that literally – it was by far and away the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard in The O2. The band themselves responded to them by delivering a high-energy, hugely entertaining performance that was full of joy and showed the strength of their connection with each other as well as with the fans, and was pure fun from start to finish – I don’t think I’ll have a better time at a gig this year. They promised “if you want us we’ll keep coming back” and I think it’s safe to say that we definitely do. To quote Charlie, “here’s to the next 20 years!” And in the meantime, there’s still the matter of getting that number one album (and James losing his tattoo bet – if you know you know…).

Set list: 1. Air Hostess 2. Meet You There 3. Loser Kid 4. You Said No 5. Everything I Knew 6. MMMBop (with Hanson) 7. Sleeping With The Light On 8. Good One 9. What I Go To School For 10. Who’s David 11. Falling For You 12. Thunderbirds Are Go 13. She Wants To Be Me 14. 3AM 15. Crashed The Wedding Encore: 16. Teenage Kicks (Undertones cover) 17. Year 3000 Performance date: 10th September 2023

Busted’s new album, ‘Greatest Hits 2.0’, will be released on Friday 15th September on Busted Live LLP.

See Busted on tour in the UK and Ireland this autumn:

12 September – Bridlington Spa, Bridlington
13 September – Utilita Arena, Newcastle
15 September – Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
16 September – Utilita Arena, Newcastle
17 September – First Direct Arena, Leeds
19 September – P&J Live, Aberdeen
20 September – OVO Hydro, Glasgow
22 September – M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
23 September – Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
24 September – AO Arena, Manchester
26 September – Cardiff International Arena, Cardiff
27 September – The O2, London
29 September – Utilita Arena, Birmingham
30 September – AO Arena, Manchester
1 October – OVO Hydro, Glasgow
4 October – Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
6 October – 3 Arena, Dublin
8 October – SSE Arena, Belfast
10 October – The O2, London

Laura Cooney
Laura Cooney
Laura has been writing for Entertainment Focus since 2016, mainly covering music (particularly country and pop) and television, and is based in South West London.

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It's two decades - yes really - since Busted first arrived on the UK music scene with 'What I Go To School For', which reached number three on the UK charts. Since then they've released a further seven top 10 singles, four studio albums...Busted, The O2, London live review