Mesmerizing Time Travel with The Chameleons at O2 Ritz, Manchester Home Is Where The Heart Is Part One 1981-1983 – December 15th 2023






The iconic O2 Ritz in Manchester played host to a night of sonic enchantment on December 15, 2023, as The Chameleons graced the stage, transporting the audience back in time with their spellbinding performance. Tonight is part one of two gigs titled “Home Is Where The Heart Is” and covers the bands early songs from 1981 -1983.

It’s cold in Manchester tonight as we make our way to tonight’s classic venue the O2 Ritz which is a stone’s throw away from where the iconic Haçienda club used to be. Quite ironic really as tonight we are seeing one of Manchester’s great bands of the era that didn’t quite make it to the dizzy heights that others did. Known for their atmospheric, guitar-based sound, the Chameleons are regarded as one of the most underrated Manchester bands of the 1980s. They did not attain the commercial success of other groups from the Manchester scene but developed a cult following.

The Chameleons are an English rock band formed in Middleton, Greater Manchester, in 1981. The band’s classic line-up consisted of bassist and vocalist Mark Burgess, guitarists Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding, and drummer John Lever.

The band released their debut studio album, Script of the Bridge, in 1983. They followed it with What Does Anything Mean? Basically and Strange Times in 1985 and 1986, respectively, before abruptly breaking-up in 1987 due to the sudden death of the band’s manager. After the break-up, Burgess and Lever formed the Sun and the Moon, while Fielding and Smithies formed the Reegs. Burgess also had a short solo career with backing band the Sons of God.

Making our way through the many Christmas office party crowds we get to tonight’s venue in good time to catch the first support of the night “The Battery Farm” a band we haven’t seen before and boy what a tour de force this band are. They describe themselves as a Gutter Punk four-piece from Manchester playing visceral, punishing rock music infused with pain and passion and that’s exactly what you get. Full on in ya face raw music. Lead man Benjamin Corry bare foot, shorts and an open hawaiian shirt mastered the stage with his brilliant aggressive vocals leading the band in a cacophony of sound. What a fantastic opener “The Battery Farm” proved to be. Catch these guys live and you’ll be in for a real treat.



Next up we have “The Membranes” a band that most music loving folk will know of. The Membranes are a post-punk and alternative rock band that emerged from the punk scene in Blackpool, England, in the late 1970s. The band was initially formed in 1977 by John Robb (vocals and bass) and Mark Tilton (guitar) and went through various lineup changes over the years. The Membranes’ music is known for its experimental and avant-garde elements, often incorporating a mix of punk, noise rock, and symphonic textures. Lead man and bass player John Robb, in addition to his work with The Membranes, has been involved in various music-related projects and journalism. He has remained an influential figure in the alternative and punk music scenes.

The band took to the O2 Ritz stage to a great reception which is really no surprise, they have a hard core following of dedicated fans from all over. Robb is as energetic as he always is on stage moving around like a teenager on redbull, it’s a real joy to see and hear. With Peter Byrchmore on guitar, Mike Simkins on drums and the brilliant veiled Amelia Chain on keys adding a little mystery to the band, their set is nothing short of amazing. Included in the set is “Ice Age” which Robb tell us it’s the first time it’s been played live for 43 years ! Their set is over all to soon, but wow what a most enjoyable set it is. We loved it and want more but there’s always next time and we will try and be there.



It’s time for The Chameleons to take the stage. From the moment the band emerged beneath the atmospheric lights, there was an undeniable electricity in the air. The Chameleons, pioneers of post-punk, wasted no time diving into their vast repertoire, seamlessly blending the raw energy of their early work.

The setlist was a carefully curated journey through the band’s early discography, offering a balance between fan favorites and deeper cuts that delighted long-time enthusiasts. Opening with the haunting chords of “Things I Wish I’d said” The Chameleons immediately set the tone for an evening of introspection and sonic exploration.

Frontman Mark Burgess’s voice, still as hauntingly beautiful as ever, carried through the venue with an emotional intensity that echoed the band’s heyday. As they moved through classics like “Second Skin” and “Up the Down Escalator,” the crowd became a sea of swaying bodies, lost in the ethereal soundscapes created by the band.

The Chameleons’ musicianship was nothing short of exceptional. The atmospheric guitar work and rhythmic intricacies transported the audience to the heart of the post-punk era, yet the music felt as fresh and relevant as ever.

A highlight of the night was the performance of “Second Skin,” . The venue resonated with the collective nostalgia of fans, many of whom were transported back to pivotal moments in their lives that were soundtracked by The Chameleons.



The encore was met with thunderous applause, and the band returned to the stage to deliver a powerful rendition of “Don’t Fall,” and a cover of T Rex “20th Century Boy” leaving the audience in awe of the timeless quality of their music. As the final notes echoed through the venue, there was a palpable sense that The Chameleons had not only put on a concert but had taken the audience on a journey through the rich tapestry of their musical legacy.

In conclusion, The Chameleons at O2 Ritz, Manchester, on December 15, 2023, was a masterclass in post-punk brilliance. The band’s ability to capture the essence of their genre while remaining relevant and captivating decades later is a testament to their enduring influence. For those fortunate enough to be present, it was a night of musical transcendence—a reminder that great music, like The Chameleons themselves, stands the test of time.

Set List

Things I Wish I’d Said
The Fan and the Bellows
Here Today
Everyday I’m Crucified
In Shreds
Less Than Human
Pleasure and Pain
Nathan’s Phase
As High as You Can Go
Looking Inwardly
Up the Down Escalator
Singing Rule Britannia (While the Walls Close In)
Second Skin
Don’t Fall
20th Century Boy
(T. Rex cover) (With Simon Hinkler of The Mission)