Deacon Blue Regent Theatre Ipswich
The Times 15th October 1999


OCTOBER has been the month of the comeback. We have had the return of the Eurythmics and Margaret Thatcher, and now Deacon Blue who, like the others, once took up permanent residence in the popular consciousness, and who are back again, reliving their glory days.

In a ten-year career that ended in 1994, Deacon Blue counted sales in the millions. Despite this commercial success, the band never quite established themselves in rock's pantheon. But when they re-formed earlier this year for a charity show in Glasgow, it sold out almost immediately and prompted the idea for this tour, during which they play two nights at the Albert Hall. This suggests that, although Deacon Blue may be only a footnote in rock's fickle history, they occupy a more permanent place in the lives of their fans.

Their devotees are rewarded with a two-hour show that supplies a string of favourites and a smattering of new songs. The show opens with singer Ricky Ross crooning Born in a Storm before the rest of the band (the original line-up, supplemented by guitarist Mick Slaven) join him for Raintown. The less familiar numbers stand out as less bombastic than the crowd- pleasing stalwarts, with their echoes of Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen, of Blue Nile and U2.

It might be tempting to accuse the band of cynical exploitation - there is, after all, a new compilation album, Walking Back Home, to coincide with the tour. But such mean sentiments have to acknowledge the palpable enthusiasm of Ross and the animated participation of backing singer Lorraine McIntosh. These two make an odd pairing. He stolidly declaims the songs while her voice swoops and soars. Only when they duet on a version of Love Hurts do they seem to inhabit the same musical universe.

Whatever the band's motives, the fans accept them wholeheartedly. They sing along, unprompted, to Dignity and Loaded. Their enthusiasm falters only once, when Ross celebrates the latest twist in the saga of Augusto Pinochet's extradition. The applause that greets this is muted, tentative. Where once there might have been cheers, there is now the nervous twitch of middle-aged politics. Tunes survive better than ideology on the comeback trail. John Street