As I sit here, having driven through a river which I am sure used to be the A38 to get back home, I sat back to reflect on the evening, my hot buttered crumpets doing a grand job of filling my belly, making up for me missing my tea earlier (I’m sure chicken used to cook in 20 minutes ‘when I were a lad’)
For the past 2 hours, I had been entertained along with a couple of thousand other folk at the Plymouth Pavilions by a band called Deacon Blue, yes folks, the band are still going after all this time and they even released a new album this year which charted at number 13, which just goes to prove that you have a loyal fanbase who are still interested in our material to this very day.
Their career is something to stand back and admire, 9 studio albums (2 of these charting at #1), 12 UK top 40 singles and to date, 6 million album sales, not bad for a Scottish pop rock band who formed in Glasgow 31 years ago in 1985!
So, back to the show at the Plymouth Pavilions….
We arrived a little later than planned, this was due to excessive rain on the A38 which meant that we were forced to trundle along at a paltry 40mph, as we entered the auditorium, I was surprised to see that the whole show was seated, I only thought they did this for comedians and ‘The Dream Boys’, one of which I’ll admit now to seeing in the past 12 months.
On stage was an Americana duo called Lewis and Leigh, formed of Al Lewis on guitar and vocals and Alva Leigh on keys and vocals, hailing from Wales and Mississippi respectively, these guys started writing together in 2014 and after three well received EPs, have managed to build a growing following, receiving two nominations (Best UK Song & Best UK Act) at the inaugural UK Americana Awards earlier this year.
Their debut album ‘Ghost’ landed in August 2016, attracting a slew of 4-5 star reviews from the likes of ‘Q’, The Guardian, The Observer and a myriad of US Country music magazines.
Watching them play a handful of tracks from their album, all performed with heavenly vocal harmonies and very tight musical skills was enough to ensure that this band were one I was super keen on chatting to and managed to gain approval from them both at the merchandise table for an interview in the not too distant future.
After a healthy break, we all shuffled back into the main auditorium after charging our drinks and took our seats for the main act….
The lights dimmed and the sound of what I thought was a bunch of backing singers piped up with a fabulous soulful rendition of ‘People Get Ready’ (penned by The Impressions in ’65), the lights came up at the same time as the band took to the stage to start their epic journey in Plymouth.
It was great to see Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh at the helm once again, leading the charge with their tremendous voices that not only sounded absolutely amazing, really took you back to the time when their hits were performed, I closed my eyes during a well know number later on in the set and I could have sworn that I was 18 again, dancing along (badly) in a Torquay nightclub.
It wasn’t long before the audience were up on their feet, the wine and beers kicking in and allowing them to let their hair down (it was a Saturday after all!). The real party started when they played ‘Chocolate Girl’ which appeared to branch off in the middle with the addition of another track, I want to say it was by The Human League but I could be wrong! This was followed by ‘Raintown’, another sure fire big hitter that kept the audience on its feet for another number, helped no doubt with Ricky walking along the front row, squirting them with water to wake up their bones and get them moving!
It was great to see the setlist so varied, new, old and everything in-between, it was also refreshing to see that the more recent material was being received just as well as the more classic hits that they are remembered for, this was very much the case when they launched into ‘This is a Love Song’ and the title track, both lifted from the latest album ‘Believers’.
Ricky spent time engaging with the room, thanking the people of Devon and Cornwall for bothering to come out and see them perform, this received a huge cheer, not early as the one that went up when the opening bars of ‘Real Gone Kid’ kicked in, the words, once being sung into hairbrushes in front of mirrors, now ringing out throughout the auditorium for everyone to join in with!
The band looked like they were having the time of their lives, they all looked good, healthy and pleased to be there, this is so often not the case these days so tonight was a real treat for everyone in attendance.
‘Loaded’ incited a mass sing-a-long with the majority of the room joining in whilst Ricky and Lorraine looked on, smiles as big as the moon whilst the room sang along to the song, their song, an emotional moment indeed. ‘What I left Out’ saw Ricky take to the keys, the stripped back sound allowed his soulful vocals to shine through, floating gently over the classic tones produced by the Fender Telecaster whilst Lorraine added real value with her exquisite tender vocals.
Ricky explained that having to leave Glasgow in the middle of November to come away on tour was really hard the thought of leaving the warmth behind, the fact that the ice cream man on the banks of the Clyde river would probably have to pack up and go home early without him there was almost too much to bear, funny as the amount of rain we witnessed this evening, I think that Ricky and co would rather have been back in ‘Raintown’.
The set came to a staggering close with the classics ‘Wages Day’ and ‘Fergus Sings the Blues’, leaving the room in raptures but wanting more….
Shortly after they left the stage, they took to the boards once again to perform an encore which consisted of a new track called ‘I Will and I Won’t’, another stripped back offering which sounded immense played with acoustic guitar. This laid the foundations nicely for ‘Dignity’ that was opened by the room, only being taken over by the band when Ricky interjected midway through the second verse! It was a great sight seeing everyone up on their feet, clapping their hands and generally having the time of their lives!
So, have they still got what it takes? Was it clear that they should simply hang up their boots, take up gardening and grow old gracefully, hell no, these guys managed to get up on that stage and blow a hole in the roof of the Plymouth Pavilions, the audience loved it and by the looks of things the band are loving every second of it too!
If you are in two minds as to whether you should see the band live, I whole heartedly recommend that you do, they’re on tour until the start of December 2016, check their website for dates and venue details, you can thank me later!
Words by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Julian Baird