Opening Night Review
Evening Times 27th March 2003

A NEAR-CAPACITY crowd greeted reformed local favourites Deacon Blue as the band performed a 9O-minute set to officially open the Carling Academy. TV presenter Carol Smillie and Chewin' The Fat favourites Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill were among the local celebrities to attend and add their seal of approval to the new venture. The former New Bedford cinema and latterly bingo hall had a 3 million refurbishment by the London-based McKenzie Group, which already runs three similarly named venues in Brixton, London, Birmingham and Bristol. Deacon Blue was a surprising choice for many to launch a venue that aims to be at the cutting edge of the current music scene, but the local band of yore proved adequate in what was almost a supporting role to the venue.

The painstaking refit sees the Academy revisiting past glories and the art deco look, lighting and primary colour paint suggests an 'all our yesterdays' experience for the modern era. Very impressive it is too. Deacon Blue took to the stage having promised a track order re-run of their 1987 debut album Raintown. Early highlights included the title track and Chocolate Girl, which saw Ricky Ross and co-vocalist wife Lorraine Mclntosh - now appearing in TV's River City -in fine form. But it was only the opening strains of Dignity that finally got the standing crowd at the front to life 30 minutes into the set. As the gig wore on, the various bars around the venue began to fill, suggesting half an hour of the top hits was what the paying public just wanted to hear on opening night. Deacon Blue were passable, but predictabie. They should now retire gracefully. Fraser Middleton