Deacon Blue : Strathpeffer Pavilion 25th May 2009
Northings 26th May 2009

RICKY ROSS doesn't waste words. All he says is “Let's do it!” and Deacon Blue hit Strathpeffer Pavilion for six. “Big in the Eighties” usually translates into expanding paunches and receding hairlines in direct proportion to declining fame, but Deacon Blue are in amazing trim, both physically and musically.

Their music was always founded on solid songwriting which, while accessible, always managed to avoid banality with an unexpected harmony and a quirky key change. Despite the difficult acoustic in the Pavilion, it's those tightly meshed vocals soaring over the solidly professional rhythms of the band, plus the maenad energy of Lorraine McIntosh, in a white dress and silver heels, dancing with childlike spontaneity, that still makes Deacon Blue more than just another rock band going through the paces.

The hits roll out, each one greeted with wild enthusiasm. The crowded Pavilion needs no invitation to clap along to Raintown or Chocolate Girl , which sound as fresh as on the day they were recorded, while the band give every appearance of thoroughly enjoying themselves from start to finish.

“A hit in the fourteenth century”, is how Ross introduces Real Gone Kid , and the place erupts, while he looks on with a wide, wide smile.

By the time the set reaches Fergus Sings the Blues , the audience has forgotten that it is predominantly middle-aged and is singing and dancing with abandon; even the stewards are waltzing. “It's like the Barrowland in Glasgow”, says Ross, approvingly, and indeed there can be no higher compliment to an audience.

They save Dignity for the encore; the audience sings the whole first verse and chorus on its own, full-throated and word perfect. It feels more like Hogmanay than a May Monday in a small Highland town.

You can tell a lot about a band by the music they play before they go on stage. Deacon Blue choose the ever-evolving Neil Young and, like him, they pass the test of time with flying colours.

© Jennie Macfie, 2009