Blazin Squad - Manchester Apollo - 24.3.04

It's seems like an age since the Blazin Squad boys hit the number 1 spot with "Crossroads". In fact it's so long that their forefathers So Solid Crew have all but disappeared from the scene (apart from the obligatory "Just Say No To Guns" messages with the po po) and UK Garage is but a distant memory as far as planet pop is concerned. This unbelievably is the boys 3rd appearance in Manchester in just over a year and the dedication from the fans sees no sign of waning for the foreseeable future. The Blazin Squad wifeys stalk the guys every move and with past it popstars such as Westlife and Blue and lame popstar wannabe's coming thick and fast with each forgettable reality TV show who can blame em - the 10 strong squad provide everything any girl would want.With an average age of about 2 years old than the fans themselves they provide the ultimate older boy crush as well as the urban shtick giving them a bit of rough element while still being cute enough to take home for tea.

Providing the transition from pop to more in yer face hip hop joints, the Squad were recently bigged up by none other than the King of UK hip hop Tim Westwood. It's these sort of props which keep the Squad on the right track and while on the last tour it was the obligatory DAT tape as backing this time the guys decided to rock it live with a live band hidden beneath the minimalist steel set. "All About The Music" from the bands debut sums up what Blazin Squad are about, a pop take on Wu Tang complete with synthetic driven brass stabs and tight rhymes. "Revolution" takes naturally from T-Rex's "Children Of The Revolution" and twists the whole rap rock thing on it's head by being a bonafide moment of pop genuis. The very idea of these "urban" kids dropping rhymes over a camp glam rock band would be enough, but the fact that they do it without taking anything away from the original is unbelievable. "Flip Reverse", an ode to taking it up the batty, provides the ultimate highlight of the night from the opening squelchy synth motif while "Here 4 One" sounds like Dr Dre driving through the streets of London.

New single "Shorty" at first seems the bands weakest track to date with outdated Asian vibes flowing over the verses, but once the chorus kicks in with a irresistible Timberlake influence on Krazy's vocals and banging ragga middle 8 it comes to life. If on record "Baby It's The Weekend" seems a little bit of a filler, it comes into it's own on the live shows with one of those ass shaking singalong choruses that was made for a live audience. It's the two smash singles, "We Just Be Dreemin" and "Crossroads", though which provide some of the most memorable moments of the night - undoubtedly their poppiest offerings of the night but sheer class all the same and proof that whether it's pop or hip hop the boys can rock it on any level.

It's clear though, as it was last time, that each member has their clearly defined role in the Squad. Melo D in truth has it all - the looks, the moves and the rhymes to stand tall above the rest of the guys; Kenzie has the looks; Krazy provides the sweet melodies; Plat'num (formerly known as Rocky B) provides some welcome eye candy when he strips off...but as fast as you can say Eminem and D12 there's certainly members more surplus to requirements, not that the sold out crowd notice as they scream as each member takes their time in the spotlight to drop it. On the basis of tonight Blazin Squad show no sign of slowing down and with little or no competition coming up to steal their thunder they've got a bright future ahead of them.

Alex McCann
Photo's by Karen McBride -

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