Dexys return after a decade with a sensational show
Dexys Midnight Runners, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, May 8 2012:
They hadn’t played live since 2003 and their last new release was 27 years ago. So to start a comeback show with a new album played all the way through when it’s not even out yet… a recipe for disaster, surely?
Not at Shepherd’s Bush on Tuesday night. As the band formerly known as Dexy’s Midnight Runners unfurled the 11-song sequence of One Day I’m Going To Soar, no one yelled out for Geno or Come On Eileen.
Instead, the crowd grew more enthusiastic as each number went by. And as the album’s last echo died away, the sold-out Shepherd’s Bush Empire rewarded the 10-piece line-up with a mid-show standing ovation.
Proud frontman Kevin Rowland, clearly moved, could only say, “Thank you… thank you… thank you so much” as his bold strategy was triumphantly vindicated.
The new songs were impressive, but the roars of approval were also to celebrate this man’s sheer audacity. He has based his whole career on defying conventional wisdom, and not always so successfully.
He’s seen hard times and fought tough personal battles. But from the sound of this show, his band now deserve a genuine second coming.
Though he looked a little gaunt under his bright red jacket and wide-brimmed hat (part-spiv, part-Mountie!) Kevin’s voice is back in tip-top form. For those 2003 comeback shows it was so depleted that the band’s big hit Come On Eileen became a husky whisper.
And one-time bass player Pete Williams was suddenly elevated to a new role as co-frontman to give his leader some help with the vocals and a bit of room to breath.
Well Pete was still there on Tuesday night, and he did come up front when the band finally played their oldies. But for most of the new songs he was in the dressing room.
The limelight belonged to the rejuvenated Mr Rowland (now 58) and, for a time, to his latest vocal foil… a beautiful actress-singer called Madeleine Hyland.
She guest-starred in a memorable song-sequence telling the story of a romance from love-at-first-sight to bitter parting. First seen in a succession of high-gloss monochrome back-projections with her voice wafting in from who-knows-where, she finally swished on stage in a glamorous floor-length gown, dancing around Kevin with hands on wiggling hips as the passion in the lyrics burst into flames… then quickly died.
Musically, many of the new songs take their cue from Dexys’ third album Don’t Stand Me Down, which flopped on release in 1985, only to be hailed as a masterpiece once they had broken up. Others reminded me of the slower songs from their biggest success Too-Rye-Ay… numbers like Old and Until I Believe In My Soul, the soulful double-whammy which opened the second half of the show.
The haunting brass lines were led by original trombonist Big Jim Paterson, back in the Dexys fold for the first time since 1982, who earned one of the biggest cheers of the night when introduced.
A long music-hall comedy routine between Kevin and Pete-as-Policeman (“Can you tell me officer… how can I Stop The Burning?”) was repeated from 2003 (once was enough, guys) and then we were into the rousing Tell Me When My Light Turns Green from the debut album, and then, to a mighty roar, the glorious wedding-disco singalong of Come On Eileen.
Encores followed but there were no more easy crowd-pleasers. A downbeat I Couldn’t Help It If I Tried led into Liars A To E and finally, This Is What She’s Like.
The perfect female worshipped in the lyrics of this third-album epic was briefly made flesh for the finale when Madeleine Hyland swept back on after more than an hour’s absence for one final hip-swaying twirl.
One Day I’m Going To Soar is out in June. It will be well worth a listen.