Deacon Blue has just started to play “Real Gone Kid.” I look around the arena, and it’s a sea of people smiling, singing, and dancing.
It underscores a thought I’ve had for decades. There’s only one way you can do it almost 40 years after your debut record: write songs that connect and play them very well.
Rewind a couple of hours, and the support act arrives. Deacon Blue is the perfect opener for Deacon Blue. A 40-minute acoustic set gave us a chance to hear different versions of old favorites. “S.H.A.R.O.N” is lovely, and the accordion on “Chocolate Girl” is absolutely superb.
The more laid-back vibe of this support set gives Ricky Ross the chance to explain the thoughts behind the music. “Cover From The Sky,” he reasons, is from his love of Gram Parsons and his belief that the greatest songs have three chords. It’s beautiful.
Elsewhere, “Looks Like Spencer Tracy Now” benefits from the approach, but “Homesick” comes in with a palpable sense of regret.
Ross had said in the set, “You know when boy bands sit down, and you know they’re gonna stand up. That’ll be us in the second half.” He’s not wrong, to be fair. They are charged up, almost like Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band in places. Ross is the rock ‘n’ roll preacher, and Birmingham is his flock, if you will.
“Wages Day,” with its Stones-esque piano and proper lead guitar, kick-starts part 2, but “Bethlehem Begins” and “Twist And Shout” (which is followed by the Beatles song of the same name) exemplify the quality on offer here.
“Loaded” (which Ross terms a ‘song of solidarity’) dips back to the first album, written at the height of Thatcher’s 80s. That it sounds so pertinent in 2023 says much about Tory Britain.
“When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring)” shows the way that Ross and Lorraine McIntosh (his wife of over 30 years) sing the songs unlike anyone else does. And they always have, too, as “Raintown,” the debut album’s title track, and “That’s What We Can Do” includes lengthy band intros.
If that brings the main set to an end, then we’re nowhere near done. “Peace Will Come” is dedicated to some audience members who are struggling, and that sense of empathy is present all the way through “Dignity” too. One of the finest songs ever made, it’s an incredible study of working-class dreams.
It’s followed by another big hit, “Fergus Sings The Blues,” but oddly, it’s a cover that best sums the night up. They sign off with a simply beautiful “Keep Me In Your Heart,” the Warren Zevon song. It brings it back full circle too, as they play it acoustically and with a real sense of warmth.
The tour was billed as “All The Old 45s,” named, of course, after a line in what might be their most famous song and the one that started this review.
If we may paraphrase the line that follows, here – for both the band and the audience – they clearly meant everything.