Union Chapel, Islington
added: 20 May 2012
// gig date: 18 May 2012
reviewer: David Spencer
It might be his cold that Justin Currie refers to during the evening but tonight the Glasgow singer, formally lead man of Del Amitri, is not quite on top form. It is not the reverential surroundings of the Union Chapel that have intimidated him, as he has been here before, on his last tour. So perhaps it is just one of those nights. His comments between tracks lack some of his usually smart and cutting observation, while during the set, there are more mistakes than you would expect from someone so talented.
Currie frustrates his fans for a number of reasons. He tends to be unnecessarily self-depreciating, his solo output has been slow in coming and he won’t reform the band that so many of these fans originally grew to love. The fact he has avoided the obvious by not calling Del Amitri out of retirement when almost every other band, even the Stone Roses, has given into temptation, is quite admirable. That connection to the band won’t be forgotten tonight though, because Del Amitri co-writer and guitarist Iain Harvie is in the audience and much of the set is made of some their finest songs.
During the hour and half set Currie performs the likes of Always The Last To know, Just Like A Man, Not Where It’s At and Tell Her This from the band’s heyday, sharing the stage with a string quartet for some of the gentler tracks. To please the faithful sat in the pews, a few lesser known tracks are included, like the sumptuous Sleep Instead Of Teardrops and the lyrically biting Empty from the band’s breakthrough album Waking Hours.
There are a clutch of tracks from Currie’s solo material, with You’ll Always Walk Alone and Baby, You Survived the pick. Bravely Currie responds to the often shouted requests between songs and responds with an aborted attempt of Surface of the Moon. Elsewhere there are a few more mistakes, as lyrics are forgotten and guitar chords lost. With just a guitar or keyboard most of the time, there is no place to hide when that happens, and a comedy fall during the encore only adds to the sense Currie’s not totally in the zone.
Currie’s sarcastic welcome warning that “now I will play 20 new songs” turns out to be just that with only a few new ones thrown in. Opening with the twee My Soul Is Stolen but ending with the quite miserable London Is Dead, a strange way to say goodnight to this crowd from the capital. Thankfully a hearty sing-along has been provided by the previous two songs before that dark note to close, with Driving With The Brakes On and a rousing Be My Downfall.
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