As the Proclaimers walked 500 miles to perform at the Philharmonic hall, Getintothis’ Rick Leach walked 500 more, and found the Scottish brothers both sounding and looking as good as ever.
Maybe it’s a measure of the high level of interest in music in Liverpool that we went to a sell-out gig for Godspeed You! Black Emperor the night before we went to see a sell-out gig for The Proclaimers.
Despite both acts being at seemingly opposite ends (or very different ends) of a musical spectrum, there were some remarkable similarities on both nights.
There was a measure of studied excitement from the crowd before GY!BE played their first ever Liverpool show. For The Proclaimers, there seemed to be just as much excitement beforehand, even though it wasn’t their first Liverpool show. The audience crowding the bars at the Philharmonic were just as vociferous as the GY!BE crowd and possibly even more enthusiastic. Certainly, we saw at least one chap wearing the kilt and full regalia, which showed a measure of dedication to the cause.
Everybody looked like they were up for a good time and ready to be entertained. We figured out that there must be something about The Proclaimers to warrant such a reaction and to sell-out the Phil on a Wednesday night in October.
For a band that’s been going for nearly 30 years and have just released their tenth album, there’s clearly a lot of material for them to choose from, and as seasoned live performers you could expect them to be able to pace a show accordingly. This show at the Phil was part way through their tour and they didn’t pussyfoot around when they made their entrance. The first two songs were despatched in quick order before they played Letter From America, which, as one of their songs that everyone with even a passing interest in them surely knows, went down very well; lots of clapping and singing along, although there was no dancing in the aisles.
While they did play a couple of songs from their latest album, Let’s Hear it for the Dogs, they concentrated on well-known material from their previous releases, songs that the audience knew and expected, which was a good thing and kept the whole show flowing at a steady pace.
They’re a bit of a strange act, marooned in time, musically. There’s a bit of a folk influence, some 60s Northern Soul vibes, a touch of light entertainment end-of the pier stuff, pre-rock and roll. There’s a feeling of mid-fifties Country, even a touch of Dylan with the Hawks, but it’s hard to pin them down. Oddly, they are one of the most un-rock acts we’ve ever seen live. Maybe they have more in common with Godspeed You! Black Emperor than might at first be anticipated.
The band they have are very tight, almost E-Street Band tight, and we had a distinct sense that they were waiting all through the show to really let fly and to be let off the leash. There was something about Charlie and Craig Reid however that seemed to be holding them back. While the audience were very much enjoying the whole show and every song was applauded to the rafters (we’re sure there are rafters at the Phil), the Reid brothers were, if not exactly playing into the dour Scots stereotype, not especially effusive between the songs. Possibly they just wanted the songs and the music to speak for themselves and in many ways, they did. The brothers seemed happiest and more relaxed when they were playing the songs rather than between them.
It must be said that they do have some cracking songs. Sunshine on Leith, Misty Blue and Cap in Hand all got an airing and despite the Reid brothers having been at it for thirty years, they sound as fresh as they did back in the late-eighties. They nearly look as young as they did back then and their voices have held up remarkably well.
They drew an end to the show with, of course, I’m Gonna Be (500) Miles, which was the song everyone had been waiting for. At this point, although there wasn’t any dancing in the aisles, everybody in the Phil was up on their feet and bellowing along at the top of their voices, big grins on their faces. From that they wound things up with I’m On My Way a great call-and-response tune to send everyone, we suppose, on their way.
We guess that’s what live music should be all about. Just like GY!BE, The Proclaimers ended up making everyone feel that they were all part of a shared experience that makes life just a little bit better.
Pictures by Getintothis’ John Johnson.