Gashead's Blog Wonders


Being There : Dexys Live At Shepherds Bush Empire 8th May 2012

From Dexys Shepherds Bush Empire 08/05/2012

Dexys, where do we start? I take you back to somewhere around autumn 1976 when my brother-in-law Andy was in a band called Uncle Po who were quite big on the Bristol band scene at the time. Andy the saxophone player, "Spike" the violinist and me the groupie set off around Bristol in a big van with a sliding side door. We would find a handy hoarding, paste up a poster, open the door, stick it up and be off again within the minute. Golden days, but more of that later.

On to 1980 when I was in the twilight zone between the neverending debauchery of university and the forthcoming prospect of doing a proper day's work 48 weeks a year for the rest of my life, year off, no chance. But there was a new sound that grabbed me as it did so many others, Geno by Dexys Midnight Runners. My sister used to play It's Funky But It's Live by Geno Washington from the sanctuary of her bedroom, I knew those opening chants from my childhood. Interest captured I bought the single and most of what followed. I read their advertisements in the NME, they wouldn't do interviews because they never felt they were being taken seriously or their ideas were misinterpreted. Instead we got the thoughts, poetic or terse, of Kevin Rowland and they toured as The Intense Emotion Revue, all very serious but great music. The look seemed to be either merchant seaman or that episode in Dad's Army when they all had to dress up as fifth columnists.

Early 1982 Radio 1 broadcast a concert, which I had a C120 for, recorded in Newcastle. Kevin introduced it "welcome to the in a tent emotion revue", hey, the curtains were down, this was fun. A much warmer, soulful sound emerged mixed with a violin and a beautiful cover of T.S.O.P. I listened to my tape repeatedly, the album Too-Rye-Ay didn't come out for several months. If you listen to the later CD release of the live concert, T.S.O.P. at 3:42 when the violin comes back in always gives me goose pimples. After the album finally hit the stores along with related singles I was watching Top Of The Pops, up popped Dexys performing Come On Eileen...hang on a minute, that woman looks familiar. I rang up my sister "did you just see Spike on Top Of The Pops in Dexys Midnight Runners?" Of course Marian was far too cool to be watching it by then but we compared notes the following week and Spike it surely was. The clothes had changed, dungarees, raggle taggle gypsy cum David Essex gear, but again the music was different, passionate, special.

The years passed, gradually Dexys faded away, at long last the reissues emerged, first with the odd B-side then finally with entire radio sessions and even a recording of a Projected Passion Revue show. But there were reports Kevin was in a bad place and I would never get to see them, as it were, in the flesh.

Late February 2012 I'm running through my RSS feeds in Google Reader when I spot an O2 Priority "coming soon" for Dexys at Shepherds Bush...whoa! I checked everywhere I could, no other mention of tickets on the web but a new album was in the pipeline, so it wasn't some American band stealing our heritage by reusing a great British name. I checked and checked and then the "Get Your Priority Tickets Now" popped up in Google Reader. Click, book, confirm - Row A, seats 12 and 13...Row A, I never get Row A, nobody gets Row A. "Vicky, you won't believe this!" The weeks went by and the regular message from Dexys was to dress up

We are planning a theatrical show - hence the seated venues. Look good, we will. Dexys
Dexys Official
Please feel free to use your phones to take images of the show and remember, look good. We will.
Dexys Official

This is tricky, yes Vicky and I dressed up as nuns for the final Faithless show but this time some style is required, we're in the front row and can't let the boys (and girls) down. Finally I decided on a double-breasted grey suit with a plain white shirt and snazzy tie, shoes to suit. The night before the show I grabbed the jacket then spotted a lack of trouser facilities. Several hangers along I found the matching trousers but it didn't take me long to discover some difficulties in the crotch region. Plan B, a rather louche cream jacket, a shirt of many colours, some brown trousers in case the nerves of being opposite Kevin Rowland got to me and sadly some M&S boat shoes. My house has never been a vault for Cotton Club era clothing, just as well as moths love that kind of thing. Vicky, of course, had a much more suitable attire, informed by the support act, a burlesque dancer!

The great day arrived, I took a lot of stick but attracted even more compliments for turning up at work in some semi-decent clothing for a change. I may work half way between The Queen and Prince Charles' London gaffs but my style is strictly down at heel most of the time. Arriving at Shepherds Bush Empire stopping only for a couple of mini wine bottles each in a pint glass we headed down the front and yes, we were centre front row. I had never been there before, unlike Brixton Academy it's a tough place to reach and we usually end up by the side bars stood behind visiting basketball teams.

Dexys being Dexys the support couldn't be the usual singer songwriter saying hi to his brother and mum in the balcony, step forward Luna Rosa. The crowd loved her, the cameramen crouched in front of us (thanks chaps) were grinning and I was not indifferent to her charms to say the least.

From Dexys Shepherds Bush Empire 08/05/2012

She was on and off, as were the significant part of her clothes in a breathless three minutes, appetiser enjoyed now for the main course. The band walked on as if they had never left, reshaped, split, reinvented themselves. First thrill was to see Mick Talbot who gave The Style Council their special sound then on came the man himself. Enormous cheers, grown men welling up, now could they get the fire burning again? Straight into the new album One Day I'm Going To Soar in its entirety. We were a mature audience, we came pre-warned, we were not disappointed. I discretely got my camera out with the intention of filming every second while looking at the stage, not the viewfinder.

Two songs in one of the security guards had different ideas and informed me I was not allowed to film the concert. Oh well, just enjoy the new songs and sing along to the couple of old ones we were likely to hear at the end. As promised it was very theatrical. Running throughout was the theme acted or rather sung and facially expressed with Madeleine Hyland. Whatever it was Kevin had done Madeleine was determined to make him suffer no matter how many times Kevin held his hands up and tried to appear contrite. Eventually he appeared to get away with "it", whatever "it" was.

From Dexys Shepherds Bush Empire 08/05/2012

Pete Williams appeared to know.

From Dexys Shepherds Bush Empire 08/05/2012

As a piece it worked superbly well, quite probably because of the seated audience rather than the usual crush common to the venue. The music never stopped but you felt you had seen a play into the bargain. Sustained applause, cries of "brilliant", the audience loved it and the band looked best pleased. The media whores at Latitude will love it if they finish their full English round at Emma and Richard's in time.

So what else will we get? Quite a bit in fact. Old, Until I Believe In My Soul, Tell Me When My Light Turns Green and, despite Rowland being such a cantankerous old git, even Come On Eileen though no Spike.

In all the excitement I forgot to avoid singing along, having decided to chance my arm with a few more home movies, so apologies if my voice spoils your listening pleasure. The whooping is Vicky, she spent much of her teens in California so that's only to be expected.

Of course they had to come back on again, it was still early and they had the crowd eating out of their hands. I Couldn't Help It If I Tried, Liars A To E (I was in row A and I tell the truth matey boy) and finally the wonderful This Is What She's Like which filled my body with pleasure.

Yes it was one of those very special nights, a small venue, a band visibly beaming with the joy of their music and a crowd who would text, tweet and generally piss off their long-suffering friends for many days to come. If they were ever better than, they just couldn't have been.

From Dexys Shepherds Bush Empire 08/05/2012