“Trying to figure who’s right and who’s wrong”…

Del Amitri – Leeds

November. It has been a long time since November. Lots have happened, too much to tell in detail, but one thing was apparent, I was in need of a gig. An escape perhaps, but just a place where things stop. Stresses and strains of work, life, the universe and beyond just stop. Just stop.

The last gig on my Forty for Forty was London to see my musical “God” – Neil Finn. The time that intervened since has been crazy. So much going on and little time to stop and think. On the occasions that time for thinking was granted, my much maligned ability to overthink kicked in.

A two month period where I encountered a first Christmas without dad, the dynamics of Christmas looking out for everyone but myself. A dash back to Bognor and 3 days in what can only be described as “Deaths waiting room” with my old friend.  A work situation that would have tested the most experienced counsellor and psychotherapist, the stresses and strains of other people’s lives and problems.

With so much more besides, add in my own uncanny my ability to inadvertently hurt others, sometimes, the burden is too great. Sometimes spinning plates drop and sometimes the boy escapes, runs. Music has become my escape, live music has become my salvation and this time, at the feet of one of my “Man crushes”, Justin Currie saved me again.

As he has done so often in my life. The voice of Del Amitri, whose songs and words got me through so much angst when I was younger, was in the right place at the right time. Sadly, the one thing I didn’t have, was a ticket. I didn’t buy in the original sale due to cost and thought Twitter would help, but alas, nothing was doing.

So I took a chance and turned up on the night looking for a spare. None to be found, other than a smoke filled ticket tout. It was a sign of desperation, it was truly the act of a needy man, but I dealt with the man and took my place in the queue. Within minutes, the security man shouted that if anyone in the queue had tickets for the balcony, they should move to another line.

In an instant, the amount of people before me more than halved and as luck would have it, I was now 10 people from the front and as the doors opened, I was not only in the venue, but I was front and centre of stage on the barrier. It could not have gone to plan if I had erm, planned it!

So, the usual reminder, at this point, this is not a gig review – there are a couple to be found online, but this is my experience of the night and as you can already tell, a bit of an “oh woe is me” ramble, so with respect, my blog, my rules, feel free to leave now.

Justin Currie had been in Harrogate in September, you can read about that experience here. That night, Justin was in fine form and news was breaking that Del Amitri had reformed. There is a song on Justin’s last solo CD called “Half of Me”, a poignant number that could have / may have been written about this. Half of him happy as he was, but half of him wanting to relive former glories.

However he felt about it, here the band did reform and were back in the same venue I first saw them – it was then called the “Town and Country Club”. That night was a defining moment for me. Seeing Currie saunter onto stage with his trademark sideburns and longish rocker hair. The Band had just followed up the amazing album “Waking Hours” with “Change Everything”. And for me, that did change everything.

I was smitten by him, his vocals, the way he moved on stage with bass in hand. Now I am not a man lover in any way shape or form, but hey, I would consider Justin if I was. A handsome man, he is a presence on stage, he has a natural way with the crowd and he has something I could never have, the ability to write words that connect.

And they connected with me nearly 20 years ago and they still connect with me to this day. In some cases, the songs are more pointed and resonate more now than ever. Perhaps that is due to where I find myself, or perhaps that is simply the mark of a great songwriter, one that somehow keeps songs revealing themselves like a recurring rose in the cold white snow, year after year.

The band were more than ably supported by a duo from Dallas, called the O’s. A combination of banjo, harmonica, guitar and more than helping of dry cowboy wit, they really connected with the gathering audience. Compared to other support acts I have seen on my Forty quest, they really were in the top 3 and I will be heading to download their music from iTunes very soon.

But it was not them I was here for sadly, it was the main act and around 30 minutes later, the lights dropped and accompanied by some old sentimental track that I really should have known, the boys took to the stage and there, in skinny jeans, a fine suit jacket with his hair looking like it was 1992 and bass round his hips was JC. We were off and the cathartic singalong began in earnest.

“Always the last to know”, “Kiss this thing goodbye”, The Ones that you love” and “Just like a man”. Bang, bang, bang, fucking bang. Perfect start, perfectly played, every word hit the spot, I sang my heart out and I meant every fucking word, every heart wrenching lyric. I swear Justin nodded at me at one stage and I really thought they had peaked too soon. How wrong.

Unlike Justin’s solo show, here was little banter, there was no need. The setlist was comprised of the “A-Z” of the bands history and there was plenty to go at. “What I think she sees”, “Not Where it’s at” and the mesmerising “Sleep instead of teardrops” all had the crowd spellbound – “Like everyone else will do, I’m gonna lie to you” sang Justin, we connected. Before we really joined in on “Be my downfall” –  “And as I look at you and I fall under your spell”… so many lines which were sung with gusto by all around.

“Food for songs” was accompanied by the drummer stood in front of his drum kit smashing the beat out and giving this song a real edge, before the heart breaking “Tell her this” was gently set flight into the Leeds cold night air. “In the frame” was next up before the classic “Nothing ever happens, Nothing happens at all, the needle returns to the start of the song and we all sing along like before”… And we did, it was just like before, but somehow it was better. It meant more, so much more.

“Roll to me” was swiftly followed by “Driving with the brakes on” – there is a killer line in that song, “Well I might be more a man, if I stopped this in its tracks and said come on, let’s go home”. It was a clear favourite on the night. “Hammering heart” was a very old song reworked for the “middle aged band” – that was their words, not mine – before “Spit in the rain”, a personal song from years gone by and she knows who she was.

But it was the next song that notched the gig up to new heights. “Being Somebody Else” is pure rock and roll and arguably one of the best songs the best songs the band has ever done, tonight it took flight and was incredible. “Drunk in a band” saw 3 of the band take turns on vocals, before they scuttled off stage.

They came back for 4 more songs, “Lucky guy”, “Here and Now”, “Just before you leave” hit individual heights before the show closed with “Jimmy Blue” a song from “Waking Hours” that had the whole of the crowd singing as one. It felt like Justin didn’t want to stop, he extended the song, he felt the crowd with him, but it had to end and it ended far too soon.

“Happy people don’t look at the time” was something my friend said to me recently and it proved to be true. I never once looked at the time, I never once took my eyes from the stage I was happy for that near 2 hours (ish). It truly was a superb gig and justified the boys reforming. It can only be hoped that they now find time to record a new CD and take this from nostalgia to something more.

All that was left for me was the cold night air, a parking ticket and a drive home. Back to reality, but god bless you Del Amitri, a night of better therapy I could not have had and if the stars line up, I may even see them again next week with young Ollie as we head to London for the weekend. However, Twitter will need to play a bit better on tickets as nearly £50 is expensive for a 12 year old!

So, if you are still here, still reading, you are bloody mad, but need rewarding. Here is Del Amitri from the night and “Driving with the brakes on”.

Click here to find more Del Amitri related posts on this blog!


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