Whilst the world continues to process the economic, physical and psychological impacts bequeathed to us by the seismic sucker punch that is Covid-19, it’s evenings like tonight, spent in the company of the The Proclaimers and their superb band, that go someway to galvanise the ritual of the shared experience, and with that, help us on the path to recovery from the subtle and the not so subtle damage wrought by the pandemic. What a joy it is to take refuge from the world for a moment and converge in a sold-out Symphony Hall for a night of stirring and anthemic music that only the Reid Brothers can muster.
The Proclaimers walk on stage to the rousing Slade hit ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’, a nod to a region which has played an integral part in The Proclaimers early history – a friendship with Kevin Rowland of Birmingham’s Dexys Midnight Runners led to the Reid brothers being invited to the city to make their very first professional demo tape, a tape that would eventually find its way to The Housemartins, who invited the duo to support them on their UK tour back in 1986, a tour that started with a show at Birmingham’s legendary Hummingbird venue – the choice of intro music is a definite indication as to the propulsive tone for the evening, if not tinged with a little wryness given the brothers have recently celebrated their sixtieth birthdays, and it being almost forty years since The Proclaimers inception.
Aided by a band of musicians that are the antithesis of going through the motions – Clive Jenner (Drums), Steven Christie (Keyboard and Accordion), Garry John Kane (Bass Guitar) and Zac Ware (Electric Guitar) – The Proclaimers launch into ‘Dentures Out’, the opening song from their latest album of the same name. This latest release is the twelfth studio album of their career and one that was forged during lockdown and is a departure from previous releases insomuch as it has a central theme that runs through thirteen songs that deal with the notion of how we treat the past and how it informs perceptions of the present and future. An album that contains so many quotable lyrics that navigate through the nuances of Britishness and conjure up so many tremendous images.
The second song on the setlist ventures way back to the brothers first album ‘This Is the Story’ and what has been claimed to be the first song entered into The Proclaimers canon, ‘Over and Done With’ begins with the unmistakeable guitar and vocal percussion of Charlie Reid, before Craig’s opening line “This is a story of our first teacher” explodes from his throat with as much fervour as it did when the duo first announced themselves to the world back in the mid-80’s.
This show feels very much like the entire band are flexing their sinews in the live arena following the recent years of inactivity. The brothers shy away from entering into too many verbal exchanges with the audience other than the briefest of introductions to songs that will centre upon the latest album and the phenomenally successful 1988 classic album ‘Sunshine on Leith’. The focus appears to be on ploughing through as many songs as possible, maintaining the momentum, whilst taking time to soak up the experience as the band regularly drop game face and flash beaming smiles to each other.
When you have an arsenal like The Proclaimers, then this approach is one that grabs the audience and rattles any hint of Monday lethargy from them. The hall is helpless as they are swept up in the intensity and passion being pummelled from the stage. Songs like ‘I’m On My Way’, ‘Then I Met You’ and ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) which lead to an inevitable and riotous conclusion, with the audience on their feet stomping along in a joyous union with a duo that have been dearly missed. It’s wonderful to have them back and we wish them well on their mammoth world tour.
Review: Chris Curtis
Feature photograph by Murdo Macleod, courtesy of PR.