OSTENSIBLY, Deacon Blue provided me with a bit of a Gordian knot. I had the chance for tickets to see them and Simple Minds. However, as they were playing on the same night and I don’t have one of those useful gadgets that Hermione has in Harry Potter (which would allow me to be in two places at once), a decision had to be made.
This wasn’t as easy as it sounds: both groups were entwined in my later teenage years – I remember playing Belfast Child so many times that my parents threatened to throw my cassette player away. I’d seen both live before, but the thing that swung it for me was the intimacy of the Grand Opera House and the chance to see the band up close and personal without having to scramble and elbow for ages just to get a glimpse of them (I must be getting sensible in my old age).
They didn’t disappoint.
Deacon Blue had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands from the second they stepped on stage. Starting chronologically with the melodic tracks of Raintown, they opened with a mixture of the obvious, such as Loaded and less obvious, like Born in a Storm and the eponymous Raintown. The intimacy of the venue was perfect for the band, reflecting the intimacy of the lyrics and the way they deal with the personal, everyday experiences of life, while allowing Ricky Ross to elucidate the audience on the inspiration behind them.
The second part of the set was more uplifting, literally, as it brought the entire audience to its feet. Ross et al tangented their way vigorously through hits from When the World Knows Your Name, as an energetic Lorraine McIntosh twirled and stamped diaphanously around the stage, like a cross between Lady Macbeth and Ophelia.
The applause was so vociferous that I genuinely thought there would be a riot if the band hadn’t encored. And, whether staged or not, Deacon Blue appeared so enthused by the response that the finale was almost as long as the original set, blending new tracks with cover versions and old favourites, such as Chocolate Girl.
Deacon Blue proved beyond doubt that a reunion tour doesn’t need a 60-foot robot or sprawling epic anthems to impress (not that there is anything wrong with either). Fabulous as I’m sure Simple Minds were, I definitely made the right decision. Like any band worth its salt, Deacon Blue left me slightly bereft as they exited, with only the back catalogue to content me when what I really wanted was to walk straight back in and watch it all again.