In the extremely unlikely event that anyone would ever choose to make a rom-com about my relationship with Mrs Garbanzo, the music of The Proclaimers would surely feature heavily on the soundtrack. We went to see them at Shepherds Bush Empire on one of our first dates. One of our first nights out after we moved up north was to see them play at Pacific Road Arts Centre which sounds like quite a grand venue but is actually a converted bus depot in Birkenhead. About 10 days after our first child was born and still shellshocked and reeling from the terror of it all, we briefly ventured out into the world of normal people to see them in Liverpool. Coincidentally they were on tour again and playing at The Lowry a few days after our second son was born. This time around I stayed at home on babywipe duty and lucky Mrs G got to step out with the other 2 wizards instead.
So with all that family history, it seems quite fitting that tonight was Chorizo Junior’s first proper gig. I’m saying proper gig because I’m not counting the Elvis impersonator who did a turn at the school fete. Technically Chorizo Junior was present with me at this festival too but he didn’t really go to that through choice, more due to lack of available babysitters and my own determination to attend no matter how inconvenient it was for him.
But tonight was different. This was a band he actually likes and wanted to see! So off we went, Mrs Garbanzo and me taking him to the Liverpool Philharmonic, the same venue where we’d seen the same band just a few days after his birth.
Unfortunately we arrived too late to see any more than about 45 seconds of support act Pete Williams. Last time I saw him was at the same venue 3 years ago when he was playing foil to the beloved genius Kevin Rowland when Dexys toured their incredible “One Day I’m Going To Soar” album, probably the greatest gig I’ve ever seen at this venue. The Proclaimers and Dexys go back a long way as the Reid twins were huge Dexys fans who were given help and career advice by Kevin at the very start of their career. Apparently part of that advice was to tone down their accents otherwise nobody would understand what they were singing which is a bit rich coming from such a notoriously indecipherable vowel-mangler as Kevin!
Both Dexys and The Proclaimers have been blessed / cursed with having one particular song that they are particularly known for. “Come on Eileen” and “500 Miles” are ubiquitous wedding-DJ drivetime radio feelgood fare. As a result both bands are often unfairly dismissed as novelties or one hit wonders.
Tonight’s gig started with a trio of songs from the debut album “This is the Story”. There is no band on that album, just Craig and Charlie’s voices with acoustic guitar and a bit of tambourine, harmonica and tin whistle. The opening song “Sky Takes The Soul” was played partly in that style with the band dropping in and out for the choruses. That was followed by “Over and Done With” and the first really big crowd singalong “Letter from America”. All 3 of those songs feature prominently in the hit stage musical and film adaptation “Sunshine on Leith”
If there’s one thing I hate more than hit stage musicals then it’s film adaptations of hit stage musicals* but despite this I watched “Sunshine on Leith” a while ago fully expecting to hate it but actually it was alright.
Clearly the stage show and film have exposed the music and lyrics of The Proclaimers to a wider audience and despite my distaste, I do recognise that more people hearing these songs can only be a good thing. The average age of the audience was definitely a bit higher than usual.
After that, they played “Should Have Been Loved”, the first of 2 songs tonight from their most under-rated album “Born Innocent”, produced by Edwyn Collins, another unique Scottish talent idolised by us wizards.
They followed that with the powerful “The Long Haul”, the best anti-Iraq war protest song I’ve heard and one that you can hear us discussing in our political podcast earlier this year.
Then they began to play songs from the most recent album “Let’s Hear It For the Dogs”. These included the very catchy Motown-flavoured love song “Forever Young” which surely would have been a single if bands like The Proclaimers still released singles. They also played my favourite song from that album “What School”. The lyrics of this song are just amazing. It’s a hard-hitting song about Glaswegian sectarianism that somehow manages to mention Stairway to Heaven, Henry Kissinger, Wolverhampton Wanderers and dogs sniffing each other’s arses. You need to listen to this song.
Before playing “Sean” from the brilliant second album “Sunshine on Leith” Charlie made many in the crowd feel their age by explaining that the song was written for his son when he was 2 and now he’s 28! That song was another highlight of the set, as were other songs from the same album “Then I Met You” and “I’m On My Way” (“the Shrek song” as Chorizo Junior calls it). Those songs sound as great now as they did the first time I saw The Proclaimers live at Glastonbury in 1989. In some cases, the anthem for Scottish independence “Cap in Hand” for example, the lyrics have become even more relevant as the calls for independence have grown and moved further into the mainstream.
Other family favourites from the Proclaimers playlist we have on in the car followed, more very clever lyrics in “Spinning Around in the Air”, the soulful “What Makes You Cry?”, more fantastic harmonies on “Misty Blue”. By the way, give “Misty Blue” and some others from the first album a listen and ask yourself where on earth did these brothers learn to harmonise with each other in that way? When they first appeared, they were frequently compared to the Everly Brothers but like most pop harmony vocalists Phil and Don sang together, the same words at the same time I mean, following the same melodic paths but just a 3rd or a 6th apart. Craig and Charlie don’t do any of that. Well, they can when they want to, “Make My Heart Fly” for example. But much of the time they’re singing completely different words or making different sounds over the top of each other. And when they get to the same bit in the next verse they’ll often sing a different thing altogether. They seem to break so many rules of harmony vocals. It’s a pretty unique style. Or maybe that’s just how everybody sings in Auchtermuchty?
The anthemic“Sunshine on Leith” was just breathtaking, with incredible vocals and wonderful lap steel. Quite a few people in audience seemed to simultaneously have “something in their eye” during this one and a whole load of people got up for a deserved standing ovation at the end.
We’ve covered it before on this blog but just in case you’ve never seen the Hibs fans singing this one…
The main set closed with “500 Miles” and anybody that wasn’t already on their feet was up for this, even in the Upper Stalls where we were. Rapturous singing along for this one of course, rarely can the words “ba da da da” have been sung with such passion.
Earlier in the day, Chorizo Junior had asked me why do people go to see bands live when they could just stay at home listening to the CD instead. I’d explained that the music often sounds better live and that it’s quite exciting to be in the same place as the performers. But the main point I tried to convey to him was about that sense of community and shared experience. Most of the time, listening to a song is a solitary activity, whereas at a gig you’re there with a whole community of people brought together by a shared love for the same music. I think he got what I was trying to say at least partially when they were singing “500 Miles” because he was beaming and later he explained that he was really pleased to discover that the song his favourite Proclaimers song is also their most famous and popular song.
I barely had time to explain to Chorizo Junior how the ritual of the encore works before they were back on for a 3 song encore. “Make My Heart Fly” was followed by a rocking version of “Joyfuil Kilmarnock Blues”, a song that is a standout at every one of their gigs and surely the best song ever about a day out to watch an away match. For the final line of the final song, the band stops and the boys sing “I want to spend my life with you” it seems as if they’re singing that line to the audience as a thank you.
Overall, I thought it was actually the best of all the many Proclaimers gigs I’ve seen! A final thought from Chorizo Junior:
“I thought it would be outside and I was happy that it wasn’t outside because it was very cold and if I got tired in the cold I don’t really know how to do anything to stop me from getting tired in the cold.”
The Proclaimers tour continues through November and December. Dates and ticket details all here.
* Apart from My Fair Lady and Tommy obvs. I love Madness as much as the next nutty boy but I once made the mistake of going to see the stage musical “Our House”. Somebody somewhere was given a challenge: “You’ve got 15 minutes, this “Divine Madness” CD and a big bag of amphetamine sulphate. Can you come up with a storyline that could incorporate all of these songs in the shortest possible amount of time based around the most implausibly one-dimensional characters you can create. Quick, stick in a bit where they go driving in a car, that’s another song ticked off the list.” I know that the guys from Madness made a packet from that musical and I’m very glad that they did because they deserve it but it was still shit. I don’t need to go and watch the Queen one or the Rod Stewart one to know that they are also shit.
- More gig reviews
- Rebel Rikkit’s “Best of 2012” podcast (includes The Proclaimers)
- Chorizo Garbanzo’s “Best of 2012” podcast (includes The Proclaimers)
- Podcast number 40: Politics special (includes The Proclaimers)
- Another review of last night’s gig with much better quality photos