Like several thousand others, I watched the Bros documentary over Christmas. Its popularity clearly took the schedulers by surprise, who’d parked it in a 10.00pm BBC4 slot with repeat in the early hours of New Years Day. I nearly missed it because my Radio Times only awarded it a paltry three stars. I thought it was an outstanding piece of film-making - it wouldn’t surprise me if it popped up again in the near future with a primetime spot on Beeb 1.
Leaving aside any of the content, it was a supremely well put together piece. It cunningly opened with a teaser of one of their backstage rows during their oft fraught rehearsal period last year, knowing that no-one would be shifting until they saw this played out in full. There were beautifully lit, revealing speeches to camera by our eponymous brothers, intercut with footage from their heyday in the 80s, their lives now in the US (Matt in Vegas, Luke in California) and their reunion gig at the O2 in August 2017. There was a slightly eerie refrain of Wogan asking ‘What will you do when the screaming stops?’ from an interview he’d conducted with them at the height of their success.
One of the brothers’ complaints, and it is a justified one I think, is what a slating they were given by the press ‘back in the day.’ I can’t deny that I was NEVER a fan of their oeuvre; insubstantial teeny pop it certainly was, but no worse than most of Stock Aitken & Waterman’s output that also clogged up the charts at the time. I don’t suppose it helped that their first big hit was ‘When Will I Be Famous?’, grandstanding par excellence. However, in the days of X Factor/TOWIE/Love Island et al, this wannabe-star posturing looks positively tame.
From most of the comments I read from others in response to the documentary, it seems that sneering is still the order of the day. It is true they come across as self-important, overly serious and startlingly un self-aware at times. There’s a definite Spinal Tap-ness going on with their often unintentionally hilarious musings. Matt (the more prolific of the two at these) proudly showing us the painting he had done of his dog with a pint is right up there with Nigel Tufnell’s wide-eyed wonder at his guitars and you have to pinch yourself as a reminder that this isn’t fiction.
There’s a couple of quotes that I did like though, such as ‘Everyone has to be on the same page so that you can turn the page’. And there’s some genuinely touching and tear-inducing moments – mostly footage and subsequent memories of their late mother. They also treat their fellow musicians and fans, both now and then, with genuine respect and affection and I found myself warming to them and hoping that the comeback concert would be a success, which it seemed to be. Whatever your view of their music, Luke can play drums and Matt can sing, so good luck to ‘em.
The relationship between them is fascinating. Luke, we discover, always felt the ugly relation; the bridesmaid, never the bride; parked behind his kit while Matt was in the thick of the crowd, the more ‘successful’ one. And yet it was Luke who exerted the most power in their relationship, being the one to walk away from the band while they were still riding high. He has been married for over twenty years; his wife Shirley is present but not overbearing during the concert filming, and significantly, not interviewed. It is their story, not anyone else’s. It is likely that Shirley has been the steadying influence on Luke, who comes across as more grounded than Matt. For me the most poignant moment comes as they walk the long walk from backstage to start their gig. ‘You’re the love of my life’, says Matt to Luke. ‘I love you too’, says Luke, somewhat distractedly, no doubt thinking of the night ahead. ‘No, you’re the love of my life,’ reiterates his brother. This is not answered.
You have to remember they were only eighteen when they were catapulted into stardom, with crowd hysteria worldwide allegedly not seen on that scale since The Beatles. It does something to your psyche, I’m sure. I’ll forgive Matt some of his ludicrous pronouncements for that.