Gig review: Thomas Dolby - ABC, Glasgow

IF you only knew Thomas Dolby for his 1980s synthpop hits, Hyperactive and She Blinded Me With Science, or for his work as a new-technology entrepeneur, you might be surprised by the choice of support act for his first tour in two decades – some old-time bluegrass stomps from fiddler Aaron Jonah Lewis.

Dolby’s reference points, though, have always been much wider than those early singles suggested, a fact reinforced on his new album, A Map Of The Floating City, which veers from the bleepy electronica of Spice Train to the country hoedown of The Toad Lickers, for which Lewis later joined him on stage.

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Dolby had little trouble keeping his audience on side throughout a wildly eclectic set. He’s a funny and engaging raconteur, particularly during the tale of the former Vogue model he had a “crazy, chaotic affair” with at the age of 23, who inspired his song Screen Kiss but left him for – oh, the humiliation – the singer from Curiosity Killed The Cat. These days, it turns out, she works on a hot dog stand in the San Fernando Valley.

The lack of schadenfreude in this affectionately told tale said a lot about Dolby. This was a very laid-back sort of comeback (he hardly needs the money), but Dolby is clearly delighted to have returned to music, taking a boyish joy in demonstrating his new toys, such as the sampler on which he keeps handclaps, harmonica solos and a cowgirl he found in Suffolk shouting “make hay not war”. But songs like the poignant, understated I Love You Goodbye were also a quiet reminder of his formidable songwriting talent.

Rating: ****