I was dreaming, emotional and shivering with anticipation as I set off from home. Dreaming about what may happen later. I was dreaming so much that I turned the wrong way up the M6 and didn't notice for 30 miles. Once heading in the right direction we cranked up The Very Best Of Dexys Midnight Runners and put on some speed. It's a nice drive from the northwest to Newcastle. Bold hills and deep valleys fall and rise on either side of the best stretch of the M6. Sometimes I like to drive and today I was enjoying the journey in full anticipation of what was to come, the first in concert appearance for 17 years of Dexys Midnight Runners. I knew it was only going to be about 3 or 4 songs, in the end it was only 3, but I had to be there. Dexys have played such an important part in my life-long love of music that I had to be there. With me were my family along for the trip and day out. My kids were played cards in the back of the car and sang along to Dexys. Eventually we had a bit of Steely Dan too but by the time we reached the outskirts of Gateshead I'd put on Radio 2. I mean, Jonathan Ross was on and he's a fan, he might have mentioned Dexys.

The venue, The Baltic, is an old flourmill now turned to a more modern use. There are cafes and galleries and a lift that goes to the top of the building where people can look at a great view of Newcastle over the Tyne. Just next to the venue stands the very impressive Millennium Bridge, which sweeps across the Tyne in an arc leaning artistically to the side. The venue itself was on the first floor. As we joined the queue I heard a girl ahead of me say, 'But who is going to want to watch Dexys Midnight Runners?' As she laughed with her friends I looked around me and knew she was wrong. Numerous people around the 'life begins at' age were in the queue, with their kids, just like me. Word had spread. Dexys are back!

The concert hall is smallish, like a student union venue. When full it could hold maybe 300-350 people max but there was lots of room and space. Enough room to meet and talk to people. I met Mark and Steve and Eddie. People who are just as hardcore Dexys as me but don’t do the interweb thingy. As we waited and listened politely to the support acts (for in truth that's what The Thrills, Howard Jones, Matt Goss, Amy Winehouse and Lemar were) it became obvious that the band, Dexys, were wandering hither and thither. What to do? I've been a Dexys fan since......well, just since, you know, but I'd never met Rowland. Do I take my chance now or lose my bottle? I wandered back to the reception area and found Pete Williams and Mick Talbot, who I’ve met before and we chatted. I took a photo of them with another friend of mine, Kendo, who was buzzing around and hard to keep track of. Then I remembered Steve, my brother, just as hardcore, at home. His tickets hadn’t arrived and he was consequently on bootleg duty. I got my mobile out rang Steve and handed it to Pete. Then the moment arrived, Kevin Rowland appeared about to go into the band area. 'Kev, Kev! (we shook hands, mumble, mumble, MSN website, mumble) *clears throat* you wouldn't do me a favour would you?' So I explained quickly, he looked a bit suspicious at first and I was trying my best not to look like a twat. Then he said, 'Yeah, I'll do that!' and took the phone off me. 'Hiya Steve! How are ya?' but Steve had hung up thinking his treat was over. Kev gave me the phone back and I said, 'Hang on I'll ring him back,’ but Kev had to go and said so, 'See ya,' and he was gone. Oh well.

By this time there was only 15 minutes to go so I wandered back to stage front and as the DJ plays a song (Boston! Was it really Boston? Did Dexys take to the stage for the first time in 17 years to More Than A Feeling?), Dexys saunter on to the stage. There was a roar from the crowd, much bigger than any earlier welcome and I knew I was in the right place. Centre stage was Kevin Rowland and Pete Williams. They sat down on stools, smiling and waving at the crowd. To the left was Mick Talbot and to the right, Neil Hubbard. Then we all had to wait for the odd couple of minutes it took for More Than A Feeling to end before we could roar all over again as the DJ announced Dexys for the radio audience at home. For Vinnie and Steve and John and...... The roar died down and Kev said something you could probably hear on the radio. Then Mick hit the first live Dexys notes in 17 years and Neil strummed along. Dexys played an almost unplugged version of the new song, My Life In England and as it built the band lost their nervousness. Kevin Rowland’s voice, initially shaky, began to soar. Pete clapped along and joined in the chorus. He is Pete The Singer. An echo of something somebody told me a couple of months ago came to my mind, 'Be prepared for a Pete Williams that plays no instruments live on stage with Dexys.' It was not just the occasion. This version of My Life In England is my favourite. It’s loose and Kevin has room to express himself like I haven’t heard in, oh, 17 years. Next we got the most beautiful rendition of Because Of You. Like everyone, I'd never heard this song played live because this was the first time and I became acutely aware that we were observing Dexys history in the making. A fleeting thought crossed my mind. There are people who are going to be lost from the Dexys fold. Those who don't recognise beauty in the weave of music played with style and soul. Precious and worth having doesn't just come with a brass section. It's not that we're older. It's not that we don't still need a bit of punk and anger. It's a different shade on the canvas, a new colour and if you can't see that it's beautiful then, fuck you. I heard a whisper about Soon and I Couldn't Help If I Tried. They could have been songs that Dexys played. I can't wait to hear the new Dexys' versions of those songs.


Mick Talbot played a gentle meander that became gradually more recognisable as the opening chords to Come On Eileen, a few of us shouted out but most didn’t know what was coming until the keys imitated the actual sounds on the single. John, my friend at home, told me that on the radio he heard a particularly Liverpudlian roar in the crowd. I can't say yet if it's me or not. I haven't heard the tape but I was close to the front and the mikes. I do hope it's me 'cause I was there, you know. Kevin Rowland sang Come On Eileen in a lower register and as Mick and Neil played along we all got a glimpse of a new interpretation of classic Dexys. All I can say is that I loved it and so did all of those present. We sang along and clapped with Pete. As Pete did one of the Too-ra-loo-rye-ay bits a broad smile grew on his face. He was vibrating with the joy of the performance. He was back where he belonged. Maybe where he should have been in the first place. I shivered my hundredth shiver of the day and sang along as hard as I could. Then Kev's voice soared up the scale to the high bits and as he ad-libbed we joined in the backing. It was a remarkable experience. One to add to the section of my memories marked 'Dexys.' As Eileen finished the biggest roar of appreciation of the day was made. The DJ realised what most of the audience had been there for and I was kind of relieved and happy. It went well. They performed as well as they could have and that is the most we can expect. I heard some people saying that they couldn't wait for the tour and now, neither can I.

Like most Dexys fans I then left. I mean, no offence to the Thrills but they couldn't follow that and I, for one, didn't want anything to follow that. My family and I headed out into Newcastle for a wander around and eventually we settled on eating in an Italian restaurant. My new Dexys friend, Eddie, and his family were already there. We talked and made plans to meet in a pub before the Newcastle gig on the tour. I played him the bootleg of My Life In England that my brother had sent to my mobile. This kind of meeting is what we've been missing for 17 years. People touching skin, shaking hands. A new Dexys web is being woven.