Charlie and Craig Reid have been making music as The Proclaimers for nearly 30 years now; from the release of their first album in 1987 to the enduring, effervescent sound of ‘500 Miles’, they have time and time again brought the heart and soul of Scotland to fans the world over. Following the release of their tenth studio album, Let’s Hear It For The Dogs, ahead of their UK Tour in October, and in the midst of a busy festival season that has included Glastonbury and T in the Park, they performed to a small but no less excited crowd in the heart of Buckinghamshire.
The night was opened by Will Varley who, placing a drink precariously close to his stomping feet, played a moving acoustic set which showed the full range of his songwriting talents. From songs about the self-checkout machines at the supermarket, to a cynical short history of the world, to damning verdicts on our political climate, Varley is a masterful lyricist whose success is on the rise following the completion of his 2014 Rambling Tour that ended with him walking (he quips) about 500 miles. Humble and honest, his music both complimented that which it preceded as well as standing alone as a true talent in the folk and anti-folk music scenes.
There was little setting on the simple stage but, lit in a warm orange light, it shortly welcomed The Proclaimers and their band up before an eager audience. Throughout the night they played a diverse spread of tracks, balancing favourites from across their extensive catalogue to build a unique set that reflected the wonderful variety of their music in not just tone, but also subject matter, treatment and instrumentation. Featuring not only drums and bass but mandolin, penny whistle and steel guitar, The Proclaimers are masters of their craft who balanced and layered sounds to give live tracks the necessary oomph to fill the high-ceilinged theatre in which they played.
Taking pride of place were several tracks from the new album; ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ was particularly noteworthy for its delicacy, with thick accents cradling the words of the ballad. This was by no means, of course, a treatment confined to newly released tracks; a fitting tribute was paid to those tracks which have paved their way to success after success. ‘Sunshine on Leith’ boasted a beautiful extended repeat and fade where, after the final chorus, the brothers stepped briefly off stage and allowed the audience to truly get caught up in the swell of the waltz-like sound of one of the band’s most enduring hits. Across all three tiers of the theatre, listeners stood and swayed together.
It was old classics such as this that received the true Proclaimers treatment; an honest, no holds barred attack to the rhythm of each and every track. Energy was high and while the audience was – as to be expected – up and dancing for ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ and ‘I’m On My Way’, as well as for ‘Sean’ and ‘Spinning Around in the Air’. No one in the audience could remain unaffected by the visible pride and genuine enthusiasm that the band had for what they do.
With heartfelt dedications throughout the evening, and bringing the infectious enthusiasm for sharing their music which has drawn countless crowds throughout their career, The Proclaimers once again showed what it means to produce, play and truly love fantastic music.