The Proclaimers are a cultural phenomena. Besides creating that one song that just about everyone knows, they have been producing music to bring Scotland’s sound and soul to fans the world over for nearly 30 years now; and all of it was beautifully on show when they played Southampton’s very own Guildhall.
Opening the evening was Pete Williams – previously playing with Dexys Midnight Runners – and his band, who definitely succeeded in upping the atmosphere. Initially starting slow and punctuating pauses between songs with anecdotes about his origins in and journeys throughout the music industry, the band showcased tracks from their recently released second album. Title track ‘Roughnecks and Roustabouts’ was a particular stand out, but the real gem was the artist himself. Before singing ‘First Real Job’, written about the desolation left in post-industrial Birmingham, Williams quipped that he doesn’t know where he would be now without performing. “Thank god for music, eh – phew!” he said. Williams put across the genuine enthusiasm and love of performing which visitors to The Proclaimers already expect to see, while making sure to include those same audience members in with him. “Thank you for spending your money on music,” he said before stepping off stage – a statement met with a deafening cheer.
It was shortly clear, however, who the audience had truly come to see.
The Proclaimers had packed the Guildhall’s expansive space to the rafters, with not a spare seat free – not that anyone was left sitting down by the end, mind you. Opening with ‘Sky Takes The Soul’ from their first album back in 1987, twins Charlie and Craig Reid played a stunning cross section of their huge discography with the energy and passion which has taken them across the world and back.
The Proclaimers told The Edge in an interview this summer that they try to never play the same set twice; with ten albums and hit after hit to choose from, this should never be a problem. Classics ‘Cap In Hand’ and ‘Then I Met You’ took pride of place, with new releases from the album the tour is celebrating – Let’s Hear it For The Dogs – slotting seamlessly in between. New love song ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ felt like holding a mirror to the classic waltz that is ‘Sunshine on Leith’; the whole evening was a beautiful tribute to the sheer power of the Reid brother’s music. Throughout the gig the brothers noted the origins or inspirations for their tracks – their second song of the evening, ‘Restless Soul’, they “first played in Clapton in the ’70s”. Later they played ‘Misty Blue’; but as a cover of the arrangement performed in Sunshine on Leith, the 2014 movie musical of The Proclaimers’ music. ‘Then Again’, a cutting and witty verdict on the BBC child abuse scandal, represented the present day and reminds us that these legends won’t stop making raw and genuine music any time soon. Almost every release was represented in some way, and the brothers gave each song the treatment it deserved – an energetic, no-holds-barred attack to each track.
Of course, excitement for the band’s greatest hits grew as the evening drew on. About 45 minutes from the end, the entire venue stood up to stomp their feet and didn’t dare sit down again. After briefly stepping off stage after a riotous rendition of ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’, Charlie, Craig and the band returned to showcase everything they had in the perfect selection of songs to round out the night: ‘Make My Heart Fly’, to sway along with while you croon; ‘I’m Not Gonna Talk About It’, to clap desperately along with; and ‘Life With You’, to belt out in harmony with every other fan in the room.
The music of The Proclaimers has transcended decades and generations, and they continue to bring infectious enthusiasm and a raw passion for music to every performance. They are an utter joy to watch perform – and no gig I’ve ever been to ever offers quite so much fun.