Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dexys @ Kasbah, Coventry, Wednesday 25th June 2014

As gaps between gigs go the 30 years between Dexys last appearance in Coventry and this one is pretty impressive. Of course the band’s (and their lead singer Kevin Rowland’s) decline and fall has been pretty well documented over the years making their rebirth in 2012 (following a brief reunion in 2003) all the more remarkable.

Tonight’s show is one of a series of three warm ups for their Glastonbury slot on Saturday (I hope they’re all packing wellies) following on from a fairly extensive UK tour in 2012 and a handful of festival dates last year. Decades may have passed since Geno made number one but the band’s sense of style (okay, so maybe the old dungarees look may have been a little ‘out there’ but still, it was distinctive right?) is still firmly in place with Kevin and Pete (Williams) both looking as cool as the Kasbah was hot. Was that a tweed suit that Pete was wearing? Tweed? In June? Inside? Playing a gig? Jeez...that’s dedication.  

If you’ve been lucky enough to see any of Dexys shows over the last couple of years you’ll kind of know what to expect. Much of the first half is dedicated to material from the band’s last album, One Day I’m Going To Soar, which has proved to be a bit of a grower. 

Opening number Now starts off as the kind of gentle piano led lament that you might hear at a wake in a Irish boozer before Pete kicks it into life and the ever reliable Big Jim Paterson trombone’s it up a gear. Lost is pure therapy, with Kevin pouring out his heart “I could not exist in the world, like there was something wrong with me”. Given the decade or so he spent ingesting up to 9 grams of cocaine a night before ending up alone and broke in a squat the mere fact that he does still ‘exist in the world’ is, quite frankly, a miracle. 

The (new) soul searching comes to an end with a different kind of ‘horn’ section for Dexys courtesy of a lusty version of She’s Got A Wiggle On. It takes a moment to track down the female voice, Siobhan Fahey, up on the balcony of the Kasbah. Looking down on the band and dolled up in a distinctly French looking outfit...oooh la la...she comes across like a particularly sexy Juliet (yep, I was a bit of a fan in her Bananarama days). This is all just mere foreplay though. I’m Thinking Of You, with a gloriously expressive trombone solo from Big Jim (earning him a touching hand on heart appreciation from Kevin) and the 70s light disco soul of I’m Always Going To Love You (think Hot Chocolate’s So You Win Again) sees the love affair rise and fall as quickly as many of Kevin’s real life relationships seems to have done. Incapable Of Love nails down the coffin lid and if you listen to the lyrics it’s yet another painfully honest confession. 

Siobhan’s a fine foil for this piece of theatricality tonight, all they need is some crockery to chuck at each other and it would

Hold on! There’s hope though. Free, part Come On Eileen, part mission statement, sees Kevin and Pete batting back and forwards the pros and cons of committing to a relationship before Kevin comes down firmly on the side of giving it all a miss.“I can’t fucking wait to go outside and live my life” he sings before coming to the conclusion “Why would I buy a book when I can join a library?” You heard the man ladies, form an orderly queue and you never know...he might thumb through for a few weeks. Ahem.

Time for the hits and classics then and the full and extended version of There, There My Dear, starting off as a slow jam (as done by Dexys Mk 3) before changing up a couple of gears to the more familiar and punchy New Soul Rebels era version (Dexys Mk 1) goes down a storm. It’s on this older material than you can really appreciate just how well Kevin’s voice has weathered the wilderness years. The dude’s 60 too and this ain’t an easy song to sing. Remarkable. One thing that the old Kevin perhaps wouldn’t have done was to have a laugh. That’s all changed as Pete and Dud...sorry...Kev...riff merrily on the “I’ve been searching for the new soul rebels” line like they’ve lost it down the back of the sofa. Hilarious. Next comes another surprise. It’s Geno (Big) Jim...but not as we know it. it what you want but Geno’s got a wiggle on too. The purists might hate it but bugger me, it works! Record and release this now...please.

I Love You (Listen To This) is probably Kevin’s best vocal of the night. Pure heart and soul. One thing you’d never do is mistake that voice for anyone else. How many other singers can you truly say that of eh? One Day I’m Going To Soar? On this, vocally at least, he really did. The Waltz (also from the much maligned at the time but now critically acclaimed Don’t Stand Me Down) slows things down to reflective sway before a typically Dexys style brassed up climax paving for the way for...well...imagine if they didn’t play it? Come On Eileen, the song that launched a million drunken office Christmas parties. I bought this record on 7 inch vinyl when it came out (yes, I’m that old) and played it to death. And you know what? It still sounds great. Defiant, optimistic, joyful...horny (yes, again...) it’s right up there as one of the best pop records of all time and, judging by the look on Kevin’s face, he finally seems comfortable with its success. Punching out the words as Big Jim and Pete share a mic it’s a magical moment for anyone who grew up watching Kevin and co outside Vi’s Stores on the original video. Hell, it even made me yearn for a pair of denim dungarees and a grimy neckerchief.

If there’s one song that tops Eileen perhaps it’s Dexys’ opus This Is What She’s Like. Of course with the all new happier and more relaxed Kevin the intro’s played for mention of The Little Nibble in Bearwood a resident of the ‘wood that’s practically unforgivable. 

There ain’t many bands that could get away with a song that can stretch to 16 minutes or so but it cleverly shifts pace numerous times, packing in more than most albums. Just as its writer has packed more into his life than most of us could imagine in fact.  

Theatrical, funny, sad, could chuck dozens of words at a Dexys gig and most of them would stick, but none would really do it justice. Glastonbury, you’re in for a treat.

Photos from the gig courtesy of the lovely Mr Ken Harrison 

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