The former Millennium Dome is an apt venue for a band ubiquitous in the first few years of the 2000s — even though it was Year 3000 that Busted famously sang about. That song’s prophecy of enduring popularity has been somewhat fulfilled by the British teenybopper trio, whose current 20th anniversary tour sold out arenas in minutes.
Last week, Busted achieved their first No 1 album with Greatest Hits 2.0, a compilation of re-recorded tracks plucked from their first two multi-platinum albums. During their second appearance at London’s O2 Arena on Wednesday night, the band celebrated a reign that lasted only a few years due to the resignation of pouting heartthrob Charlie Simpson. Unbothered by the swampy sound quality, the crowd devoured hit after chirpy hit, including You Said No and What I Go To School For, while American pop-rockers Hanson joined the stage for their sickly 1997 mega-hit MMMBop.
Busted meshed a manufactured boyband image with the pop-punk sound already made popular across the pond by bands such as Green Day and Blink 182. Like boybands, the trio were plastered across every teen music mag in the land. Unlike boybands, they played live instruments (ish), wrote their own material, and sported baggy jeans and spiky hair: a rebel-lite persona that offered a gateway to guitar music for pre-teen listeners — as well as inspiring plenty of sneers.
But even for acts dismissed as novelties, nostalgia remains a lucrative business. At the O2, it was hard to tell whether Busted were enjoying themselves, going through the motions for the cash, or simply three men pushing 40 and exhausted by an intense schedule. Granted, bassist Matt Willis seemed full of beans. But guitarist James Bourne completed runway victory laps like an obedient yet tired sheepdog, while Simpson fulfilled the other definition of “resigned”, i.e. not the one he demonstrated in 2005 which terminated their chart rule.
Still, the reunion tour wheels turned slickly, if a little slowly. Twenty years on, there were fewer scissor jumps, but as old music videos flickered on giant screens behind the band, the presence of their younger selves dominated the arena. Busted have recently enjoyed a more positive reappraisal as part of the millennium’s light-hearted, commercial era of pop. It was this sense of fun and nostalgia that drove the show, despite the band’s promise of a new album and assurances that “we wanna do this sh** forever”. It’s probably unlikely Busted will reach the seventh album promised in Year 3000 — but who cares?
Touring the UK until October 10. Tickets https://tourlink.to/BustedTour2023