City Hall, Newcastle
Melody Maker May 1989

IT’S the love songs — they still write and cover the greatest LOVE songs. Tonight, “Because The Night” is gently coaxed from Patti’s embrace and allowed to lose itself in wonder again. Likewise, Bobbie Gentry’s “Never Fall In Love Again” is tinged with just the right measure of bitterness and tears, and Van’s “Northern Muse (Solid Ground)” becomes almost celestial. Abandonment, despair, then divine intervention. What more could you ask? Deacon Blue still care, still share the same honesty, still promise you the world without limits in a venue where, ironically, you’re not allowed to smoke or drink. It’s just that the shift in the emotion/entertainment ratio can’t help but provoke the age old question — have they sold out? 

Caught in the dramatic ebb and flow of an enormously theatrical two-and-a-half hour show which would look good in the biggest American stadia (and probably soon will), it’s easy to jump to the wrong conclusion. Indeed, the first few songs confirm your worst fears. They sound like Simple Minds— seven-inch songs in 12-inch clothes. The glitzy stage set and Ricky’s new found pro-stagecraft only add to the worries. What were once fleeting Polaroid snap shots of small town life are blown up into 70mm panoramic feature films flashed across a bright light stage and accompanied by a juggernaut soundtrack. Deacon Blue pump and sweat, and, for a moment, it looks like they might get ugly. Thankfully they realise better than anyone else that they’re walking a fine line. 

Accused of glamorising down-at-heel-chic in a cluster of pretty slogans and catchphrases they stoically compound the “crime” by overtly flirting with some aspects of Americana while noisily condemning others. But Ricky’s political raps from the stage aren’t just a fashion accessory and certainly aren’t going to win him many friends in the “right places”. The simplicity and defiance of the band’s message is as evident as ever, if anything, even more so in their roughed up version of Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” or their own rewrite of the Scottish National Anthem “Orphans”. Tonight they simply played their heart and souls out. Played almost every song from the two albums and nearly all the B-sides to boot - right from the nagging claustrophobia of “Raintown” to the great escape of “The World Is Lit By Lightning”. All of them played with a conviction and commitment that was, at times, literally breathtaking. “Our small town world seems bigger and maybe more worth fighting for,” they sang on “One Hundred Things”, and while this Deacon Blue bears little relation to the one I fell in love with two years ago, the romance still sparkles and the commitment is just as strong. The only way is up. Mat Smith