September 27, 2023
Royal Albert Hall, London
Few bands can boast a 35-year journey of consistent Top 20 triumphs on the Albums Chart with every release. Deacon Blue, however, is a notable exception. Since their 1986 debut ‘Raintown’, which quietly ascended to the Top 10, spending a year-and-a-half within the Top 40, they’ve garnered a devoted fan base.
With 11 studio albums under their belt, the group that’s asserted its dominance over the charts for decades has taken to commanding stages across the UK with a massive run of greatest hits shows, cementing their reputation as one of the UK’s premier live acts.
While the Royal Albert Hall has always been a favourite for vocalists Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh it seems the rest of the band is equally at home at the iconic Knightsbridge venue.
On a breezy late-September night, the band – including founding-member Dougie Vipond on drums and James ‘Jim’ Prime on keyboards, Gregor Philp on guitar and Lewis Gordon on bass (and double bass) – decided that, for this tour at least, in addition to the prestigious headline slot they would also double-up as the opening support act.
As they stepped out on to the stage for what would be more than two-and-a-half hours of music, all six members assembled behind the microphone for a barbershop-quartet style a capella rendition of the chorus from their 1989 hit Wages Day with it’s now-famous lyric ‘and you can have it all’, which lends its name to their recently-released career-spanning 14-disc box set.
The band appeared as tight as ever as they sailed through an eight-song, 40-minute acoustic appetiser that included new arrangements of some of their best-known tracks, including Queen Of The New Year and a slightly ABBA-esque reworking of Cover From The Sky – their Christmas single-release in 1991 that features Lorraine on lead vocals. The crowd very much showed their appreciation as she effortlessly hit the high notes.
Another highlight of this opening set came in the form of the newly-arranged version of Chocolate Girl, about which Ricky joked: “We’ve got plenty more songs that we can ruin like that.” As the band concluded the opening support slot with a brooding version of All Over The World there were cries of “I love you Ricky” from the crowd, which visibly amused the 65-year old as he left the stage.
Following a brief 20-minute intermission and a quick costume change, the six-piece returned to an ethereal introduction, seamlessly transitioning into their 2012 comeback hit, The Hipsters. From there, it was an exhilarating 1 hour and 45 minutes of non-stop energy from the Deacons. The second set served up a feast for the crowd, featuring the band’s greatest hits like Real Gone Kid, Wages Day, and Twist And Shout. Both the band and the packed Royal Albert Hall audience revelled in every moment.
Midway through the second set, Ricky paid a heartfelt tribute to Graeme Kelling – Deacon Blue’s original guitarist – who passed away from pancreatic cancer nearly 20 years ago, eloquently expressing how his old comrade would be touched that fans still sing along to Loaded, a song they had co-written with Prime. The audience showed their appreciation with applause as images of Graeme filled the overhead screens, which continued to enhance the performance without overshadowing its raw energy.
For the encore, they saved their newest song and their very first. Ricky’s smile lit up the stage as he settled at the piano for Peace Will Come, gracefully segueing into the opening bars of Dignity. It was a true spine-tingling moment from a band that is undeniably at the very top of their game.
Words and Image: Paul Hollins