Ricky Ross, Lorraine Mcintosh, et al. prove the band has stood the test of time with hits old and new.
Following 2012’s release ‘The Hipsters’, Deacon Blue were described as being “closer to hip replacements than hipsters”, but by the looks of Liverpool’s filled arena, the 80’s Scottish pop band are still very much loved; showing how their songs’ gentle appeal has transcended the decades.
Complete darkness, and silence, falls on the venue for a stripped-back verse of gig-opener ‘People Get Ready’, which fades into ‘Come Awake’ from new album ‘The Believers’, the band members’ silhouettes slowly made out by warm orange stage lighting. This gradual ‘awakening’ of the audience is wildly different from the often explosive gig intros favoured by so many of today’s artists, and sets the tone for the rest of the evening. There is a sense of maturity tonight – and not just because of the multiplicity of balding and greying heads surrounding me – but onstage, in the comfortable way the band handles themselves. The juvenile insecurity idiosyncratic of younger bands is replaced with almost familial chemistry – the lead singers being married may have something to do with it.
With its opening keyboard melody causing everyone to break in anticipatory whoops, old classic ‘Raintown’ sends the unanimously middle-aged audience into an enthusiastic mass of moderate-tempo air-punching. The “tired eyes and tears and frowns” of mind-numbing day jobs are but a distant memory for the creators of several platinum-certified albums, but the sentiment rings just as true for us in the 21st century.
Ricky Ross has a lyrical finesse that is no better demonstrated than in the verses of the nostalgic ‘Chocolate Girl’, who’s twanging guitars and warbling dobros seem lifted straight from a full-blooded country record. The song being an attempt to diverge from “sexist love songs, [like] that awful song by Eric Clapton, Wonderful Tonight” (Ross’ words), chorus hook “He calls her the chocolate girl, Cause he thinks she melts when he touches her” is one of the best lyrics to come out of the 80’s.
Any fears of the band drifting too far from the Deacon Blue-print as the years roll by are unfounded as every release is simply new material framed by the old sound – some may call it tired but the musicians sure aren’t, hardly stopping dancing onstage the whole evening. But why reinvent a perfect formula? To shed the sound that made them successful would perhaps be to do a disservice to their longest-standing fans, and so every new batch of material seems to serve as a reminder of their unassuming and dignified presence instead of an attempt to perplex or bewilder.
Title track, ‘The Believers’, with the line “the believers know that it’s gonna get better”, is an anthem for today’s dismal political climate, and the audience sing back the chorus to an enthused Ross with considerable spirit. ‘I Will and I Won’t’ is a quiet interlude before the band indulge in multiple encores and an episode of onstage japes which mainly targets the guitarist, the other members making a show of polishing his shoes in a pseudo-panto manner and attaching a cape to his shoulders while he attempts to solo. Despite receiving rapturous applause for new songs, Ross and Mcintosh can hardly be heard over the crowd during ‘Dignity’ – Ross’ ever-poignant and wholesome ode to the working man, all in all proving Deacon Blue definitely ‘still has it’.