Ross And Friends Back And Blue
Sunday Herald 6th June 1999

MUSIC Deacon Blue Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow 'I thought it was really good weather for a Deacon Blue concert," announces Ricky Ross, to broad agreement from the crowd. The pavements are wet, the sky is grey and it seems to be only right that images evoked by the band's first LP, Raintown, should be duplicated on the night their short-lived reunion reaches its end.

With Ross frequently to be found playing Deacon Blue songs with Lorraine McIntosh and James Prime in tow, it doesn't, on the face of it, seem like such a life-or-death thing to see the whole group together. But Glasgow has turned out in force to salute them anyway. Deacon Blue were a crucial part of an era that helped give the city its pride back.

Maybe it's the superior acoustics of the Clyde auditorium, or that five years apart have refreshed them, but the band play beautifully. Ross's guitar-slinging compadre Mick Slaven is a welcome addition, filling out the sound in just the way it's always needed. And how we've missed the sight of McIntosh flopping sweetly around like a little girl on the dancefloor at a wedding reception. Ross himself has set his charisma control to the highest notch, and displays a faultless sense of showmanship that allows him to say as much simply by running a hand through his hair as by lying flat on his back in mock exhaustion.

Hearing material from all their old records stacked up in this retrospective Best Of way reinforces the suspicion that most of Deacon Blue's time together was a battle to match the strength of the songs on their first album. Some of the later numbers, such as A Brighter Star, more than hold their own, but all the highlights come with the grandly melodic and purposeful songs of the early years.

The moment everyone has been waiting for, of course, is Dignity, the band's first single, which still sounds like the first draft of a far better song, but it is the one that the fans chose to be the group's anthem. As he's been doing for years, Ross lets the audience sing the first verse all by themselves, but there's also that other line that everybody shouts triumphantly along with - "I saved my money". For the defining line of a rock song, perhaps a band's career, it's a strange one, celebrating the Scots' value of thrift and sensible financial planning over reckless hedonism. The perfect Calvinist pop thrill. It says more about audiences, and by extension the band, than "Don't follow leaders/ Watch the parking meters" ever could.

Alistair Mabbott