The lights dimmed on a half full/empty room and the dulcet tones of Tammy Wynette and George Jones singing the Ceremony filtered out of the speakers. Soon a mysterious couple made their way, arm in arm across the stage; shrouded in shadows. As the song ended the stage lights came on and revealed the couple to be Lou Dalgleish and Michael Weston King aka My Darling Clementine.
Lou was dressed in a clack mini-dress and carrying a red and white bouquet and Michael a pale blue suit and pork pie hat.
Tammy and George were as good a template as any for the type of Classic Country music My Darling Clementine have breathed new life into; the boy/girl duets that were popular throughout the 50’s and 60’s but all but disappeared when Gram died.
Opening song; Hanging by a Thread from their debut album swiftly won over any doubters in the audience. Throughout the next thirty minutes Lou sang like an Angel and joked with the audience whenever Michael tuned his guitar; she even made fun of a couple who arrived late; much to the delight of the people who had to accommodate them.
One highlight of the album stunned the crowd tonight; Going Back To Memphis which was written in response to label mate Tom T Hall’s That’s How I Got to Memphis had a few women dabbing at the corner of their eyes.
As the short set drew to a close Lou took to the Sage’s Grand Piano and without any introduction crooned the opening bars to The Other Half. Now; I really liked this track on the album but when Michael ghosted back onto the stage to deliver his version of events the song stuck in the throats of the ever increasing crowd. I’ll not spoil the surprise, but ‘he’ is about to get married in the Chapel and ‘she’ is outside looking in; wishing she could be his Other Half and there may or may not be a surprise twist at the end.
This really was Country music at its very best and the crowd of middle-aged Deacon Blue fans that surrounded the Merch desk, hoovering up albums was testament to that.
Ricky Ross found fame and fortune with the Pop –Soul outfit Deacon over 25 years ago; and in the interim years has toured the length and breadth of the UK and Europe as a solo artist and occasionally with his wife Lorraine McIntosh; singing paired down versions of his hits but mostly songs from his own singer-songwriter career and that’s what we got tonight; a mixture of his own solo albums and only a couple of well loved ‘hits’ from the early days.
The concert opened with Ricky and Gregor Philip nervously singing the title track from the new album; Trouble Came Looking; and as Gregor swapped his mandolin for a guitar at the end, Ross joked that this wasn’t going to be an ordinary Folk gig; but it would definitely be a folk gig; and to prove it the duo seamlessly went into Craig Smilie’s (The Song o’ the) Saracen’s Maid from the same album; which was as traditional as a modern Folk song has any right to be.
Not expecting any Deacon Blue songs I was surprised to hear the opening riff to Wages Day early in the set; but the cheer of recognition gave way to a beautifully raw and personal version of the pop hit, which sounded particularly apt in these days of austerity and recession (much like the era it was first conceived). As they say, the test of a great song is if it has the same effect when played on an acoustic guitar – well this song went beyond the original tonight.
A few of the next half dozen songs were good; if a little bit too ‘samey’ for my liking but following a naive request for requests – 100 people shouted for 100 different songs; Ricky chose the album track, Back Here in Beano Land. To the uninitiated ‘Beano Land’ is the name locals gave to Ross’s hometown of Dundee where the iconic comic magazine The Beano hails from. With Ross on the Grand Piano and Philip on the acoustic guitar the tale of a once illustrious industrial city became the sound of thousands of hearts breaking.
Although I didn’t understand the lyrics one little bit, The Germans (are out today) sounded like Randy Newman about thirty years ago and went down well with the more established fans in the hall.
Taken out of context, and without the story of his daughter working for a charity that works with some of the poorest people in the world; We Shall Overcome could have sounded twee and naive but with the back story it became a powerful song of hope over greed and one of the stand out songs of the evening.
Another song that took on a new life was Pale Rider which had been written after a fan had given him a Cormac McCarthy book some years before and it had created an ongoing obsession with Texas that has been turned into a beautiful song.
Now into the encore section Ross and Philip’s guitar playing became punchier and even punkier in places, especially during This Is The Lifewhich sounded like the Waterboys at the height of their career.
The biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for another Deacon Blue song;Real Gone Kid which again, sounded completely different to the original but far more exciting when played acoustically.
The evening came to a glorious end with Ross back at the piano for a song that had been written by a friend who had died only a few months previously. The song was about the other, gentler side of being Scottish and was called Harmless. Sung in a Glaswegian dialect the humorous song became a bit of sing a long; especially the chorus of “And ah’ll still gan hame for ma tea;” and left the sold-out crowd with a big smile across their collective faces.
Ricky Ross (Deacon Blue) and My Darling Clementine
23rd April 2013