With many of his 80s peers already back on the campaign trail, it was a pleasure to witness Danny Wilson frontman Gary Clark’s first live performance in 20 years, even if it was a miserable night for a comeback, with much of Deacon Blue’s audience sensibly sheltering in local hostelries before the main event.
Deacon Blue/Gary Clark ***
Edinburgh Castle Esplanade
Nevertheless, there were various cries of appreciation from around the esplanade for a musician who has spent the last couple of decades writing songs for others but still sounded in supple shape as he delivered earnest piano melodrama, a lovely plangent guitar tone and acoustic versions of the soaring Mary’s Prayer and The Second Summer of Love (in decidedly non-summery conditions) shorn of their shiny production.
Were Clark planning on making this a more regular occurrence, it would be great to see him in an intimate club next time, all the better to appreciate his blue-eyed soul balladry.
This year, Deacon Blue are marking the 30th anniversary of their debut album Raintown and the elemental irony was not lost on the assembly, as footage of splashing water played on the big screens and the audience donned their disposable ponchos in preparation for a damp but uncowed celebration. Their best-loved album was inspired by Glasgow but Edinburgh couldn’t have set the scene better.
An ebullient Wages Day and Queen of the New Year were dispatched to warm up the crowd with the band attacking the set, metaphorically dragging their pals up on the dancefloor for the time of their lives. Ricky Ross, in particular, has honed his pop preacher persona to slick perfection and there was a fair bit of ham theatrics along the way, which could be forgiven in the overall scheme of keeping the party going through the rain.
In addition to the swelling title track, Raintown produced many of the band’s most enduring songs, from the blushing serenade of Loaded to the rallying cry of Dignity. Chocolate Girl was sweetened by a snippet of the Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham number I’m Your Puppet and Clark joined the band for a brooding When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring), with additional gospel flourishes from James Prime on the organ.
The likes of Real Gone Kid and Fergus Sings The Blues would have made a natural conclusion to their set but there was a closing cover version treat especially for Edinburgh – a last waltz to The Proclaimer’s Sunshine on Leith.