Oh, what a night. I’m not as much of a concert-goer as I ought to be. And I’m not a fan of stadium gigs. But there are some opportunities you just can’t turn down. And seeing Deacon Blue at Edinburgh Castle is definitely one of them.
I’ve only been to one concert there before. In a series perhaps ill-advisedly named Summer Nights back in 2004, I went to see James Taylor. Warm and sultry it wasn’t but JT more than made up for it. And at least it was dry.
So it was with a little trepidation that I watched the weather forecast unfold last week. Increasingly there seemed to be no avoiding the fact that making Raintown the centrepiece of the gig was more than a tad prescient.
When Saturday came I took an early bath at the Musselburgh 10k and then watched with increasing dismay as the rain first trickled then plummeted. I can see the castle from my kitchen window though and the sound of the band rehearsing reminded me this was no time for half-empty glasses.
‘Embra gives us a Glasgow welcome’, Ricky tweeted some way through the dreich afternoon. ‘You’ll just have to warm us up with the music tonight’, I tweeted back. ‘We shall. Fear not’, he responded. Confident that Ricky’s a man of his word I took comfort. We were on a promise.
The warming up began with the brilliant Gary Clark who had us all reminiscing with the beautiful and timeless Mary’s Prayer. Just lovely. What a shame we’ve not seen more of him since those days.
And then bang on the allotted hour the band we’d all come to see took to the stage. And the rain, which had just about held off for a while, started to tumble. But no fear, the opening song was the irrepressible Wages Day. We could have it all. The promise was well and truly on.
It was a jubilant and exuberant start. Pitch perfect for the occasion just as Here I am in London Town had been when I saw the band on the 25th anniversary tour at the Roundhouse in 2012. You can win and lose an audience in those opening moments.
And with Wages Day they grabbed us by the short and curlies and implored us to hold on tight. We were here to enjoy ourselves no matter what. Ricky leaving us in no doubt that he’s quite the showman.
The ritual tearing up of the plan for the evening played with our sense of anticipation. Of course, there was a plan, but we were to experience it as an exercise in pure spontaneity.
Two numbers later we finally paused for breath as the performance of Raintown began with the more than aptly titled, Born in A Storm. There was no doubting the atmosphere with the castle enveloped in a haar behind the stage.
The remaining ten tracks from the album followed seamlessly in a set that was as tight as can be. ‘Play it safe’, Ricky teased us as he introduced Chocolate Girl. But they did nothing of the sort as the song gave way to the most sublime rendition of I’m Your Puppet. We were their puppets and we were only too happy to be.
And then Ricky asked Gary Clark to once again eschew his ‘self-imposed exile’ and join them for When Will You. The effect was as harmonious as any other moment.
Betwixt and between we sang along too, first to Loaded which has a special place in my heart as the track that won me over all those years ago and then, of course, to the emblematic Dignity. We were well and truly on a roll. Rain, what was that anyway?
And still in the midst of it all, an opportunity to remember the late Graeme Kelling. He had played his part these past 30 years and it wasn’t to be forgotten.
With Raintown completed, the band treated us to an enthralling mix of the old and the new. We were first Hipsters with them and then every one of us a Real Gone Kid. The anthems had come thick and fast as fresh as the day they were first served up. Were we Believers, Ricky asked? You bet we were.
Sometimes singing along can jar, but not tonight. We took our chance to sing in the rain, and word perfect we were too. But it took nothing away from the musicianship on the stage.
We were almost there. Just an encore away from a soggy walk home. But we were spoilt to the last just to make sure we went warmly on our way.
‘Here’s our dilemma song’, Ricky said as he introduced I Will and I Won’t. No dilemma for us though. And I found myself marvelling at how a couple can do all the things that any family do and then come out and sing together quite like that. I’ll Never Fall in Love Again was such a treat.
Fergus, of course, always has its own special introduction. You always know it’s coming and yet it’s always a surprise. And it didn’t disappoint.
Twist and Shout, according to the plan that wasn’t, was there if needed but they might not get time. Just as well they did as the whole arena lit up with mobiles. We need some light, Ricky and Lorraine said. And it just happened.
It could have been so cheesy but we were all too won over to worry. I get more than a little curmudgeonly about LED lights at concerts usually. But not tonight.
How would it all end? Forever Young has been a closing number at recent concerts, somehow fitting from a band who have aged with dignity. But not tonight. We were in Edinburgh and it had to finish with a song from our town.
So in a final rebuttal to the rain, Deacon Blue gave us the Proclaimers’ finest, Sunshine on Leith. If you’re going to do a cover as audacious as that, you’d damn well better nail it. And they did.
They were done. We were done. Our glasses had been well and truly filled. You may have gathered by now that I enjoyed it. I’m not a groupie, but I am quite a big fan. So I make no apology for not finding fault.
Like more than 8000 other folk, I went out into the damp Edinburgh evening to be entertained. And it was worth every raindrop.
First published on 24th July 2017