It’s been quite a while since Del Amitri last played live as a full band. Apart from some warm-up acoustic concerts a week before this Cardiff date, they hadn’t been on stage together since a Barrowland gig in their native Glasgow in 2018. So there were two forces at play when Del Amitri came on stage to a huge welcome from their most ardent Welsh fans – the gleaming talent of their musicianship and the signs of rust setting-in after so long out in the cold.
The first could mainly be attributed to Justin Currie. The denim-clad, gnarled songster just seemed to know his material better, to be inside it like only the writer can. Currie staggered, minimally, around the stage, his bass looked to be welded to his body in a way that affected his ability to bend his knees. But his playing was perfect and his singing as expressive and youthful as ever.
Currie was the first to apologise for the mistakes, and he’d probably say the whole band were guilty of a few fluffs. But the rust was mainly showing on Iain Harvie. Currie’s sideman, and only other surviving band member of the last 40 years, forgot an intro and fudged a few important parts across the night. But what he may have been lacking in consistency, he made up for in presence and personality. With long hair hanging down as he leant over the neck of his Les Paul, all the rock swagger and surety was there.
What was truly exceptional was the harmonising. Currie, Harvie and guitarist Kris Dollimore blended beautifully throughout the night, but most notably on closer Be My Downfall. Which, as stunning as it was, was followed by hubbub amongst the crowd who were expecting the absent Nothing Ever Happens the third time the accordion was brought out.
Support act The Byson Family, another set of Glaswegians, were outstanding. They are, and sounded like, a new band – lacking in the finesse that Del Amitri, mostly, showed. But their harmonising was equally moving and the more Americana and soulful vibe suited the excellent Phil Campbell better than his previous outfit, The Temperance Movement. Campbell bounced around the stage and the band kept up with his energy in some stunning instrumental sections.
In the end, the strength of the writing behind Del Amitri was undeniable. With songs like The Last To Know and Roll To Me alongside newer, darker material like the incredible I’m So Scared Of Dying and Musicians And Beer, it was only ever going to be a great night. Currie’s wit and self-deprecation carried the band far: “The world’s fucked, we’re all going to die – but it’s been lovely seeing you,” are some parting words. I’m sure a little more time back on stage, their songs and the band’s ability to sell them, will carry them even further as the tour bus rolls on.
St David’s Hall, Cardiff, Mon 13 Sept
words and photos JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
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