And the band played on, and on, and on
Edinburgh Evening Times 28th May 2001

ITíS become something of a plague. When rock íní roll was first bashed out to a dumbstruck audience nigh on 50 years ago, it was an exhilarating, visceral and, most importantly, young phenomenon.

Nobody at the time gave a thought for growing old - rock was a game for kids who lived fast, looked great doing it and died young. But then pop and rock stars began, well, not dying, and things all got a bit clouded.

These days the album charts are clogged with Best Of albums, and the live venues of the country are packed to the rafters with ageing stars, well past their sell-by date, trying to relive their youth while also inflicting on a nostalgic audience their mediocre new material.

Into this climate, then, saunters a reformed Deacon Blue. One of the genuine highlights of the late Eighties and early Nineties Scottish pop scene, Deacon Blue had a great line in melancholic blues-flecked pop vignettes, with songs like Dignity, Wages Day and Real Gone Kid.

First hitting the charts in 1988, the band went on to release four albums over a six-year period, ending in the obligatory Greatest Hits, which went triple platinum, and then they called it a day, apparently sick of the sight of each other. Or not, if you believe the bandís high-profile frontman Ricky Ross.

"Even in 1994, if you look at any small print, no one ever said, ĎOh, thatís ití," he says. "We always kept in touch with each other, and left it open so that we could do something in the future if we wanted to."

A financially astute move. Shift forward five years, and the original six-person line-up of the band got together again for a one-off show at Glasgowís Royal Concert Hall in support of Braendam, a charity for disadvantaged families.

One-off? Well no, there then followed a tour later that year, notably not for charity.

And that was it that time. Erm, or maybe not. "At the end of the tour everyone just went back to doing their own thing," says Ross. "I went back to making plans to do my solo album, and as I was talking to Papillon [Rossís solo record company]. They said: ĎIs it possible to have a new Deacon Blue album?í Obviously there was a lot of good will there, weíd done a tour, so I said: ĎLet me go and speak to them about it and see what everyone thinksí."

And so was born a fully reformed cash cow of a band. Itís easy to see some of the reasoning behind Deacon Blue getting back together. No-one in the band has really set the heather on fire with their separate careers.

While 43-year-old Rossís solo career has trundled along outside the limelight, his wife and the bandís backing singer Lorraine McIntosh has had a couple of goes at acting, with little success.

Add to this Dougie Vipondís faltering career as a sports television presenter, and three other members that no-oneís ever heard of, and youíve got a recipe for reformation all right.

And now we have the result. A comeback album, Homesick, and a UK tour, which takes in the Playhouse tomorrow night.

The album has received pretty unfavourable reviews and is a fairly uninspired affair, showing little of the songwriting spark that fuelled the bandís early work.

Ross is understandably bullish in the face of the recordís criticism. "What you always do is you go in with the best set of songs that you possibly can," he says. "And as far as thatís gone, I think some of these songs are as good as anything weíve done."

While fans might be glad to have them back, they shouldnít rely on Deacon Blue being around for good.

"Weíre doing the band a lot this year and we may end up doing it a lot next year," says Ross. "But I think we all know that there is another life out there, a hinterland somewhere that you can retreat to."

But then again, thereís the bank balance to think about. "Obviously financially itíd be great to go and play three nights at Wembley Arena, but I think realistically itís still nice to go and play two nights at the Albert Hall."

Nice for you, maybe, Ricky. Doug Johnstone