Over these circus Christmas lights
Sitting in a backwards facing seat on the train, I momentarily drop off and imagine the train is rumbling forward to Scotland; it is disconcerting to open my eyes and I'm hurtling backwards, disoriented. I'm on a nostalgia trip to Glasgow to see my schoolfriend Jin, and Deacon Blue, a band I loved 1987-1989, whom we both went to see the day before my 16th birthday at Sheffield City Hall, my first proper gig. We meet up by the Christmas tree in Glasgow Central and go to sip mulled wine in George Square's Christmas market, before going over to the Royal Concert Hall for the gig. Being 43 is different from being 16 and it's nice to have a seat in pleasant surroundings, not in a damp basement venue with one toilet. I think we are the youngest people, here (except for the 30-something ladies in their best slinky frocks, with as, Jin puts it, "I'd like to speak to the manager" iron-straight hair, doing the hen party dance: one hand in the air, eyes closed and frowning, a pseudo-sexy wiggle of the bottom), but old people have their advantages. There are snaps and vids, but people are not gassing on their phones or facebooking all the way through, indeed when DB do This Town To Be Blamed and someone chats, Ricky Ross calls them out and people applaud.Lost in music, sweet (blue eyed) soul music
They come on to a cover of People Get Ready and and do a mini-version of Human League's Human, before going onto new songs and old-new songs, with little that I recognise until they get to Real Gone Kid and I'm woo-ooh-ooh-ooh-woo-hoohoo-ing along in joyful recognition. This is the song that made them mega. Although rather than this and other radio-friendly unit shifters, I preferred the more thoughtful, balladic, poetic, whisky-drenched melancholia of songs like When Will You Make My Telephone Ring or Loaded. I loved the first album about rain and the second album about light, and then I don't know what their following LPs' subjects were because I'd moved on. They do all the hits except Dignity, so when they leave and return for the encore, it's got to be Dignity but they surprise with the forgotten delight of Wages Day: the joyful celebration of Friday night on the town: "And his heart, it was reeling with the thrill of it all/All to do and only hours/He said: and this is all YOURS/And you can have it all!" and then, oh, the highlight, the gorgeous Born in A Storm which mingles into the fantastic, bombastic Raintown.
And then it's still not done, there's an ill-advised 60s megamix which folds into an exuberant Queen of the New Year, complete with glitter cannon, which threatens to go Full Partridge, but fortunately it goes off, to applause applause applause. And then they're STILL not finished, they come back for an acoustic version of a Bob Dylan song, Forever Young, which we're not, but it doesn't matter, sometimes it's fine to go backwards, even if it makes your heart lurch and your brain gets muddled. The band has done two and a half hours of singing, leaping, dancing, running through the first row of the audience, touching hands. Ricky Ross is 58, but looks better than other reformed popstars I've been to see recently. The soft-left politics are still there, he talks briefly about UKIP, Jo Cox, even the poll tax, and I remember how they championed forgotten soul singer James Carr by covering Dark End of the Street and even writers, referencing Carson McCullers in Undeveloped Heart. You you don't get that with Mumford or his sons.Over the sea, over the land, and the city
We drive out to Loch Lomond, empty and autumnal with a Scottish wind whipping up off the lake and into our uncovered ears. A seaplane lifts up and crosses the water, landing on the other side. A few dog walkers, a country pub, and us; its a small oasis 45 minutes from the city. When I come to other cities I think about how i could fit in, live. But then it's dark by three and I change my mind.