PART experimental theatre and part gig, last night’s triumphant return of Dexys (formerly Dexys Midnight Runners) to the Capital was a lesson in how to give your fans what they need rather than what they think they want.
Star rating: * * * * *
Led by founder Kevin Rowland, resplendent in wide-brimmed hat, patterned shirt, black nail varnish and the occasional smile, the band gradually picked up the pace as they worked their way through 2012’s One Day I’m Going to Soar, their first album in 27 years.
With many of the original band back in their rightful place, including trombonist “Big” Jim Paterson and Rowland’s verbal sparring partner Pete Williams, it was an unrestrained Dexys that led the audience through songs which revealed the emotional and societal pressures placed on its writer.
Themes of love and obsession started to surface in She Got a Wiggle as Rowland’s latest muse, Madeleine Hyland, was introduced via an on-stage screen. You and I’m Thinking of You found Rowland’s confidence soaring before the unexpected crash of I’m Always Going to Love You, its final moments causing one audience member to cry out in disbelief, momentarily throwing Hyland.
While Rowland’s admissions of his very human frailties could have been the death knell for a supposedly entertaining night out with a 1980s pop band, they ended up being the perfect bridge between performer and fans. Society may expect him to get married and have kids, but it’s clear he’s happy to be himself.
As for the much-loved Dexys classics that could easily have dominated the night, they made an appearance but didn’t overshadow the first half. Extended versions of Come on Eileen and This Is What She’s Like were two of the songs that had the venue shaking at the close of the two-hour performance.
In what ranks as one of the finest performances to hit Edinburgh in recent years, Dexys decision to embrace the new proved that there’s still life in the Old Soul Rebels yet.