Back in the nineties Del Amitri were chart regulars, the Scots’ wryly bittersweet but cleverly structured, melodic songs making them one of the few bright spots in a bleak musical climate, at least for me. But the new millennium has seen them fade from public view: after going on a long hiatus in the early 2000’s a well received tour in 2014 seemed to herald a bright dawn, but they then disappeared again.
So these shows were met with some anticipation, if perhaps not on a scale to justify ticket prices twice what they were four years ago, and thankfully on the hottest day of the year the venue I still think of as the Hammy O was pleasantly temperate.
They were part of a golden generation when Scottish pop and rock acts (Deacon Blue, Texas, Gun etc) were all over the radio, and one of their contemporaries in the Trash Can Sinatras provided support. They shared the same melancholic, world weary feeling of Del Amitri and in particular Travis, but the songs, though well constructed enough with some good harmonies if a bit ‘jangly’ for my liking, were marred by the most passive stage presence I can recall seeing in a long time.
As Del Amitri came on, floppy haired frontman Justin Currie joked that he just avoided saying something crass involving the words ‘ready’ and ‘rock’. Rather than an unpleasant dig at GRTR!, I like to think he was referring to a subdued opening which saw them deliver the opening trio of songs acoustically – ‘Be My Downfall’, their breakthrough hit ‘Nothing Ever Happens’ with keyboardist Andy Alston enjoying himself out front with an accordion, and ‘Food for Songs’.
It was only a temporary format as after some instrument swapping they were fully plugged in for ‘Kiss This Thing Goodbye’, with a sweet guitar solo from Iain Harvie. Both this and ‘Just Like A Man’ were reminders that they always looked more to America for their sound than many of their contemporaries.
They fairly rattled through the set with few songs extended beyond their natural life, though I actually wanted to hear more of Justin’s mordant wit, and, other than for anyone desperate to hear ‘Roll To Me’, the set covered all bases.
The familiar hit singles were there- from ‘Always The Last To Know’ which recovered from what seemed like a tentative start to ‘Not Where It’s At’ with its chiming Byrds-like guitar and great vocal melody and a quite poignantly delivered ‘Driving With The Brakes On’ , but so were worthy album cuts like ‘The Ones That You Leave Lead You Nowhere’ and ‘It Might As Well Be You’ which built very effectively from a slow beginning.
There was stuff I was not familiar with such as an old B side ‘The Verb To Do’ and even, shock horror, a new song, a very jaunty sounding ‘You Can’t Go Back’. The occasional bit of grit in their otherwise melodic oyster came with the altogether grungier ‘Wash Her Away’ from the 2002 album ‘Can You Do Me Good’ (which Justin joked no-one liked), and ‘Being Somebody Else’ which turned into its usual feedback-strewn workout.
I’d always viewed Iain as the rock element in the band and after all they used to play on his likeness to Lemmy – though I suspect the Motorhead frontman never braided his ponytail ! However he seemed just as happy playing acoustic, with Kris Dollimore – who looked a full foot shorter than his guitar partner – taking a fair share of the electric solos. Indeed his smooth work, accompanied to Justin’s falsetto signing, made the delivery of ‘Here And Now’ one of the night’s highlights.
The gig ended with people singing and swaying to some of their best loved hits as ‘Spit In The Rain’ segued seamlessly into ‘Stone Cold Sober’. When they returned, ‘Move Away Jimmy Blue’ got perhaps the best reception of all, arms swaying to what seems established as their anthem. However it was the sole encore, and with the gig not even reaching the ‘union rate’ of an hour and a half’s length, there was a slightly underwhelming feeling in the air as people filed out.
Nevertheless, even if not a vintage Del Amitri gig – the atmosphere at the 2014 comeback show was a bit more special – it was a timely reminder of their underrated talent and the inclusion of a new song may be a hopeful sign they are back to stay.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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