21st October 2003

It was like this.... There was an audible gasp of expectation as the lights dimmed and we all waited for the caper to begin. In the darkness we could see figures making their way onstage and as the lights came on, we saw the band, seated and looking just as smart as we'd seen in all the recent photos. As the applause died down Julian Crampton started proceedings with a short improvisation on his bass before slipping into the familiar opening notes of "The Waltz". There was no sign of Kevin or Pete as the immaculate Lucy Morgan and the rest of the band joined in the introduction to Don't Stand Me Down's closing song. Kevin's vocals started and he was still nowhere to be seen. Then the moment arrived as he entered, stage right, singing as he strolled on, like a wandering minstrel who had been singing off-stage for the last eighteen years. And I suppose in many ways, he HAD.

As we'd been promised this was to be as theatrical as it was musical. No sooner had the applause died down for Kevin's entrance than Pete 'waltzed on' from the opposite side of the stage singing the song's second verse. They continued to trade verses and lines throughout the song until we reached its climax and it was time for Paul Taylor's trombone to take centre stage for what remains one of my favourite bits of brass from the Dexys canon. Keeping the mood set by the opening number, the band then treated us to a beautiful version of Old, with Pete and Kev again exchanging lines as though it was a conversation in verse. The call and response of the old Dexys came to mind, as did the spoken conversations between Billy and Kevin on Don't Stand Me Down, but this was something new. Pete's voice will have been a revelation for anyone who has not heard his post-Dexys work with These Tender Virtues or Basehart, and he was on top form, matching Kevin note for note, almost like a vocal duel at times.
With the scene set, Dexys launched into a very faithful rendition of "Let's Make This Precious" before going straight into a barn-storming performance of "I Love You (Listen To This)". Any fears which anybody may have had previously about Kevin's ability to deliver these songs with the passion and fervour of old were surely forgotten by now. In true Dexys style after the rush of blood we were taken right back down with a smooth jazzy-styled reading of "I Couldn't Help If I Tried" performed by Kev and Pete sat side by side on bar stools. This was followed by one of the most powerful performances of the night, a great re-working of Dexy's 'forgotten classic' "Liars A to E". Elements of the numerous different versions of this song were welded together into what already feels like the 'ultimate version'. The brassiness of the 'Projected Passion Revue' performances smouldered alongside the freshness of the strings on the album track, but the biggest surprise came on the chorus as Kev and Pete traded the lines "This game's not for you, (you pseudo) so easily seen through (you pseudo)..." which date back to the song's original 1978 incarnation as part of The Killjoys' "Smoke Your Own". It was difficult at the time to know how they could surpass that but then the lights dimmed and a spotlight fell on Kevin as he sang the opening lines of "Soon" accompanied flawlessly as ever by Mick Talbot. Need I say more?
With Dexys there were always peaks on top of peaks and this night was no exception. The pathos of "Soon" quickly gave way to the foot-stomping jubilation of "Geno" as the row of seats I was sitting in began to pulse in time to the infectious beat. As the song drew to [what appeared to be] a close Kevin surprised us all again by bringing the music right down and reminiscing about the Geno Washington show in '68 which inspired the music we were hearing, and in particular the song which had stood out that night, "Michael The Lover". At this point Kevin and Pete sang a few lines from the old Geno Washington classic before the song really DID draw to a close. Somehow they had managed to do both a faithful version of Dexys first Number One AND make it a new and personal statement. It was as though Kevin was finally regaining ownership of the song which had become 'bigger than the group' and making it HIS again.
After the old we got the new. Strangely 'Manhood' was not performed at all but the performance of "My Life In England" and the positive response it drew from the audience again convinced me of the song's commercial potential. Time will tell I guess.
When Paul Taylor blew out the opening notes of "Until I Believe In My Soul" there was another huge cheer of recognition from the die-hards in the crowd. The song sounded very much like the original 1981 version until the point where the music breaks down and the talking starts at which point it morphed into the 'Celtic' version as seen on "The Bridge" tour. We were then treated to the evening's greatest moment of theatre as Pete Williams recreated the legendary 'policeman sketch' which had been a hi-light of the 1983 and 1985 shows. As Pete appeared in uniform there was loud applause (and a few wolf whistles!) from those of us who knew what was coming; and surprise and laughter from those who didn't as Pete proceeded to interview Kevin about his burning. There were some notable changes to the old routine, for instance, Kevin explained that the incident had taken place from '71-93', and he answered many of Pete's questions with a despairing "I don't know" in a style reminiscent of My Beauty's classic "I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top". Finally Kevin gave a full and frank statement in the form of an updated run-through of "Tell Me When My Light Turns Green" ('Seen quite a bit in my 49 years') before asking Pete how to "Stop the Burning". Pete explained how and "Until I Believe In My Soul" came to an incendiary climax which threatened to do anything BUT stop the burning.
There was no way to top a moment like that, surely ...and then the band launched into "Come On Eileen" and the whole place shook up and down and from side to side. Whatever anybody may have come to feel about this song, the wave of universal love for Dexy's most famous hit inside the Guildhall on the night was as amazing and heart-felt as the rendition. Suddenly, as the song reached its end, Kevin said "goodnight" and the band left the stage to rapturous applause. I made my way to the front to aid the shouts for an encore and we were rewarded when the band returned to do a great rendition of "Because of You" before bringing the house down with an extremely powerful reading of "This Is What She's Like". The comedy and theatrical nature of the night was again very much in evidence as Pete Williams played to perfection his role as the bewildered friend trying to find out what she's like. As the music surged to it's blistering climax, I knew this had been worth waiting eighteen years for. And I knew something else too. Dexys were back!


The Waltz
Let's Make This Precious
I Love You (Listen To This)
I Couldn't Help If I Tried
Liars A to E
My Life In England
Until I Believe In My Soul
Tell Me When My Light Turns Green
Until I Believe In My Soul (Finale)
Come On Eileen
Because Of You
This Is What She's Like