Justin Currie

Justin Currie @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton, 30 May 2017


Justin Currie

When you attend a Justin Currie performance, there is a feeling that you are meeting your best friend for a drink, and a chat, to reminisce about old times, previous girlfriends, heartbreak, love and laughter.  This is perfectly exemplified by set opener ‘Always the Last to Know’, which Justin plays with just acoustic guitar, accompanied only by a subtle slide guitar.  Considering this song is now twenty-five years old, the packed Slade Rooms sing the words note for note, as if the decades are just moments.  We keep up with Justin only until the final “last”, which he holds for what seems like an impossible amount of time, while we gasp for air.  Proof if any were needed that Justin’s voice is still as powerful, raw, bluesy and soulful as it ever was.

The set is a thoughtful mix of Del Amitri classics, and his solo career spanning four albums, with the latest ‘This Is My Kingdom Now’ released this month.  If you are a newcomer to Currie’s song-writing you would be hard pressed to distinguish old from new tonight as the quality is outstanding throughout.  The Del Amitri songs may be less rocky now as the Pallbearers take over as Justin’s backing band, so you lose Iain Harvie’s wailing Les Paul — for me this is particularly noticeable during the guitar break in ‘Move Away Jimmy Blue’ when tonight’s arrangement sees a solo that borders almost on a country feel… nice, but not screaming.  For the most part, the band does just enough though to show Justin’s masterclass in song-writing in the perfect light.

Justin paces the set with due consideration for his fans, old and new, ensuring that his new album is given the right amount of exposure.  He also mixes it up depending on the song, by moving from acoustic to electric guitar, to keyboard, with such little effort that you forget he is just the bass player from Del Amitri!  Of course I am joking.  Justin has always been a great vocalist and this has not altered at all; the falsetto parts in the chorus of ‘Just Like A Man’ particularly are stunning.

The enthusiastic crowd exchange banter with Justin and sing along throughout the gig as if there is not a great big barrier between stage and audience.  The only moment of disappointment is when the band does not reappear for a second encore.  I guess after the first encore of four songs, which includes a near perfect version of ‘No, Surrender’ and finishes on ‘Be My Downfall’, we just wanted more, and just like a man, he fails to deliver.  However, the moments during the last song when either by plan or luck the band is late to join in with the chorus, the single, strong voice of his fans take over and sing it all the way through, with the band and Justin coming back in on the chorus repeat.  It is thrilling and we are right to want the night to never end.

I have been fortunate enough to see Del Amitri play three times back in 1990 and 1992, and Justin Currie solo in 2008.  From the small stage at Edwards No 8 to the Symphony Hall and back again, his songs are sewn into my life and with each new album and each new girlfriend, he supplied me with lyrics that perfectly summed up how I felt when my relationship soured.  Each time I hear those songs, I am transported back to those moments in time to relive some of that heartache: although I can laugh about it now and appreciate how serious I felt it was at the time, but actually now know it was inconsequential and trivial in comparison with real life.  Justin Currie is like Dr Who and his songs are a Tardis; the Slade Rooms and its crowd of forty-somethings are travelling through time and space to the winter of 1989 when we were young and the success of ‘Nothing Ever Happens’ hadn’t actually happened yet.  Justin Currie was our unsung hero and our secret, and like many girlfriends along the way, we had to let him go… or he left us, depending on your point of view and emotional maturity.  Like in Casablanca, ‘we always had Edwards No 8; then we didn’t have, we lost it until he came to Wolverhampton. We got it back tonight’.  I know it’s sentimental but that is the arena that Justin plies his trade and I am more than happy to lose myself in that woozy nostalgic melancholia.

Justin writes songs that heartbroken men can sing and feel sorry for themselves and women can feel that they left a lasting impression on their man, and were loved, totally.  Of course, he does sometimes stray into the melodramatic to emphasise a feeling but there is a place for that and when it is done with the skill and finesse of a top songwriter like Justin Currie, he can count on my support forever.

I must add that I brushed shoulders with Justin and Iain back in February 1990 in Station Street, Birmingham (around the corner from Edwards No 8 where Del Amitri were playing that night).  As my friend and I were walking to get a beer before the show, a group of what we initially thought were drunken leather clad hoodlums approached us.  Trying to avoid eye contact and translate what we thought was drunken gibberish, we picked out the words ‘Is there a good pub ‘round here lads?’  To direct them away from the pub we were heading for, we pointed at The Crown, the roughest pub in town just down the road on Hill Street.  And off they went.  I then look closely at them as they walk away and realise they were not drunk and slurring their words, but Scottish, and it is the band we were going to see later; our heroes, Del Amitri.  We considered for a moment running after them, but were in a band ourselves and serious musicians so didn’t want to appear like groupies: yes I still regret not following them to this day.  The next few years centred around Del Amitri as they were ever present in my life, but I will cover this separately in an article called: “How Justin Currie ruined my life”.

Suffice to say, that gig at Edwards No 8 was a defining moment for me, and to witness Justin twenty seven years later, still brilliant as a writer and a performer, still clearly enjoying singing those old songs, and still inspiring an audience is something special.  Justin’s tour continues into early June before more dates in October.  Make sure you catch him while you can.

Justin Currie Setlist:

Always the Last to Know

Tell Her This

Something in That Mess

Anywhere I’m Away From You

Hey Polly

Out of My Control

Just Like a Man

This Side of the Morning

This is My Kingdom Now

The Dead Sea

Driving With the Brakes On

If I Ever Loved You


Buttons on My Clothes

I Hate Myself for Loving You

Everyone I Love

Move Away Jimmy Blue

I Love the Sea


Still in Love

No, Surrender

My Soul Is Stolen

Be My Downfall


Reviewer: Alan Neilson

Photograph: PR

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