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Live Review: Dexys

16 November 2012 | 3:24 pm | Ross Clelland

It had the potential to go very wrong. A majority of the audience were probably here to see one 30-year-old song, potentially bumping heads and expectations with a singer who stubbornly does things his way.

But, at heart, frontman Kevin Rowland is an entertainer – and an artist. There's always a vision. Thus, this (up to ten-piece) Dexys line-up took the stage in 1940s zoot suits and pinstripes, fedora hats and flat caps, the look akin to an amateur production of Guys And Dolls, to run through their new album – the sprawling and often melodramatic One Day I'm Going To Soar – recital style.

It's theatrical, then sincere. The band is drilled tight, led by original Midnight Runner (and later Paul Weller/Style Council foil) Mick Talbot's keyboards, punctuated by Big Jim Paterson's trombone or Alice Pratley's violin. Once bass player, now second vocalist, Pete Williams acts as Rowland's conscience, confessor, adviser and/or bullshitting mate down the local, as he blusters through the insecurities in pursuit of the girl he thinks he wants. Said girl, the imperious and glamorous Madeleine Hyland, is there – and yet not, her unattainable status reinforced by appearing as a glossy film-star image on one of those old roll-up slide screens, before she actually sweeps onto the stage as the 'relationship' finally happens – and then disintegrates in three songs, the big emotional swing of Incapable Of Love having her disappear in an angry swirl of satin and chiffon. Singing to an empty chair, the album performance seeps away with It's OK, John Joe. Rowland is still a great soul singer, as the self-analysis and resignation pour in and out of him.

“But we can't leave it like that!” Williams announces. And the final third of the night is the pay-off to many. The back catalogue is raided, although not for the most obvious – Until I Believe In My Soul, an odd cops-and-robbers dress-up sketch segueing into Tell Me When My Light Turns Green. Oh, and that one about Eileen coming on, with the venue going double-mad-with-cheese karaoke singalong.

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It ends with the rambling, imploring, exhausting, soulful This Is What She's Like. It was nothing – and everything – that was expected. Which only seems right.