Dexys – Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 8 May 2012

Opening your first London gig since 2003 by playing your first album in 27 years in its entirety takes balls. But then Dexys (they’ve dropped the Midnight Runners) frontman Kevin Rowland has never been short on cojones.

And as the band come to the end of the soon to be released ‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’, it’s clear that the self-belief has paid off – the all-seated audience rising to an overwhelmingly emotional standing ovation, droves of Dexys devotees clearly relieved that this long-awaited comeback is a triumph and not an embarrassing disaster.

‘One Day…’ is well worth waiting three decades for, mixing all the best bits of Dexys’ glorious past – the brassy soul stomp of the ‘Geno’ era, the folksome fiddling of ‘Too-Rye-Ay’, witty spoken word interludes and the odd music hall tableau thrown in. Mick Talbot, on keyboards even brings a touch of his other old combo The Style Council to the mix.

Rowland’s voice is incredible, rising from charismatic croon to soulful shout with superlative ease. He stalks the stage in a wide brimmed hat and two-tone brogues, occasionally trading vocals with Madeleine Hyland and original Dexys bassist Pete Williams – who plays his confidant and comedy sidekick with aplomb.

Few artists are brave enough or possessed of enough vision and all consuming belief in what they do to deliver a show such as Rowland and Dexys do tonight. Long spoken word intros, dramatic (sometimes bordering on the amateur dramatic) asides, sketches, knowing humour, and a painful, vulnerable honesty are all dished up with a heartful of soul and a perfect pop sensibility.

And after Dexys have done what most bands can only dream of – played an entirely new album from start to finish and made it one of the best gigs of the year – they play a further hour of classic old Dexys tunes!

‘Liars A – E’ is fantastic as is ‘Until I Believe in My Soul’, featuring a sketch with Williams dressed as a police officer taking a statement from Mr Rowland who is visibly concerned about his “burning”.

Original Dexys trombonist ‘Big’ Jim Paterson, resplendent in dungarees and two-tone brogues, plays a blinder all night but it is his refrain from ‘Tell Me When My Light Turns Green’ one of the night’s highlights, which stands neck hairs to attention and tempts tears from aging eyes.

A rousing ‘Come on Eileen’ comes with an extra chorus and while there is no ‘Geno’ or ‘Jackie Wilson Said’ tonight ‘This Is What She’s Like’ with it’s hilarious banter, sends everyone home happy.

Dexys are well and truly back. And still writing some of the best pop music this country has ever produced.

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