@ St Georges Hall, Bradford
What is there to say about The Proclaimers? When you mention them to friends they’ll say – “and what did they play apart from the two hits?”.
And I say – they played an hour and a half of quality stuff and here was a lot of singing along and some dancing too. For two largely immobile men on stage, they put out some emotion through the strong voices and emotionally tactile material. Backed up live by four other musicians, they made a big sound and a very flash lightshow made this an event for the crowd, who weren’t your average gig set. Smoky beams and pinwheeling effects dress up the largely static show. Craig stands, with his big chest and his hands shape words quietly as he enunciates them loudly. He looks naked in front of the microphone. Charlie has a guitar to hide behind and looks a little more comfortable. The venue is full of middle-aged men with square glasses, dressed almost like their idols, accompanied by their womenfolk. A few are conspicuously ‘refreshed’ but the rest are just happy enough to wave their arms about.
Opening with New Religion, a song about the brothers’ contempt for people who obsess over football or Star Wars and following it up with In Recognition, where they express their contempt for left-wingers accepting honours from the Queen, the Reid brothers evidence they’re boiling with loathing and not just the luvvies of 500 Miles, The songs are big and catchy, making a rather danceable alternative to old time protest singing acoustic strummers like Billy Bragg or Bob Dylan. An attack on newspaper columnists supporting the Iraq war (‘SORRY’) leaves me understanding there is rather more to The Proclaimers than two karaoke hits and back of the bus favourites. Restless Soul tempers things with a non-political song, a twangy guitar on country soul. I’m On My Way gets a roar from the audience and is preceded by strings of dedications. Everyone claps, sways, sings – they’re on their way “from misery to happiness”. Sean sees more clapping along and some lovely high harmonies. Cap In Hand signals a return to message songs – “I can’t understand why you let someone else rule our land”. The audience is singing along and Letter From America gets everyone singing louder. Life With You, recent single, is a real sweetie and big too. There is a raw heart to it that is a lot of the band’s appeal – they sing the obvious and express our common thoughts for us. They follow the two bouncy hits with a bouncy attack on violence in song lyrics, tied into ever-accelerating rock guitar. A Steve Earle cover is nice to hear, Sunshine On Leith is welcomed and is probably sung more often than the unusual meteorological phenomenon. Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide World is sung straight and becomes a Proclaimers song. The rest of the gig (Let’s Get Married, 500 Miles, King Of The Road, etc) is a huge singalong of celebration of common emotions – imagine finding yourself in a space where a thousand or more people were expressing the same heart-on-sleeve emotions as yourself….. there’s an element of church here.
I left the gig feeling uplifted and with a sense of having set things to right. Approach The Proclaimers without cynicism and they might surprise you.