Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dexys at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 18th September

[Another diary-review like this one, fact-checked a bit. It wouldn’t hurt to set the scene by mentioning the support act, a burlesque performer whose name I didn’t catch, and who turned out to embody the ‘later use of the term’ – i.e. striptease. It was all very professional and, as you’d expect with something Dexys-associated, her costume was beautifully cut and colour co-ordinated, being all in lemon-yellow. Over the ten minutes of a brass-band soundtrack she eventually got down to pants, tiara and nipple-covering sequinned discs. It was the one moment of the evening which recalled Kevin Rowland’s fabulous My Beauty album, in particular the cover and the ‘Concrete and Clay’ video, which doomed it, of course, commercially. A young female stripper didn’t come close to the taboos addressed there, but it was a tip of the hat, I thought. Nice tits, too, well swung.]

19th Sept. Fennel soup! And a latte, in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery café in Edinburgh, the day after Dexys played the Queen’s Hall. Fennel, apple and... celeriac, I think, though it doesn’t taste like celery. Perhaps it doesn’t, generally. Dexys were great, very much the polished showmen of their Later... performance, drilled and immaculately dressed. Kevin wore a grey fedora all the way through, which was a problem at first because we were right above the stage on the balcony, so it was three songs before we got to see his face. For ‘She Got a Wiggle’ a screen was wheeled out, on to which Madeleine Hyland was projected, singing when appropriate (the ‘I’m mad about you’ refrain), otherwise smouldering. Kevin performed to the screen, letting us identify him positively for the first time. I presumed Hyland hadn’t come on tour with them, but the screen turned out to be a device for preserving the thunder of her appearance a few songs later, on ‘I’m Always Going to Love You’. That’s when the sparks really began to fly.

They played the whole of One Day I’m Going to Soar, and it was great, but the encores were greater. A slow, mellow, green-lit ‘Tell Me When My Light Turns Green’, sung in response to some stage patter, a policeman asking Kevin to explain himself for… burning, naturally. I’m sure Chris Roberts’ Don’t Stand Me Down article mentioned policemen and burning (hey, it did), must be an old routine. There was no ‘Geno’, though folks chanted for it; there was an extended ‘Come On, Eileen’, Kevin strutting up and down in front of the stage like a peacock, trying to climb a speaker stack and thinking better of it, returning to strutting. Clasping outstretched hands from the front row. And then, best of all, with a curtailed intro, just ‘I’ve been wondering, what’s she like?’… yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything better than Dexys playing ‘This Is What She’s Like’, straight from 1985 (except for the reception, so one hears). After singing ‘Well you know the kind of people that put creases in their old Levis?’, Kevin said, ‘people really used to do that’. It built quickly and got a huge round of applause as it dropped back for the harmonies and variations. A band-intro bit was built in and as it approached its final whirl Madeleine Hyland came out again, not to sing but to stand – to stand him down? – accusatory, hands on hips. Kevin didn’t sing to her this time, he was wrapped up in his mantra, ‘This is my soul’, over and over for many short minutes, and though that might be self-centred it radiated like nothing I’ve ever felt, and it was his soul, filling the room, transcendentally joyful.

Chris S.’s photos of the gig.

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