Deacon Blue – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Deacon Blue – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre (4)

By Roger Crow, June 2024

Of the two phenomenal acts I saw at Scarborough this week, I’d have said Simple Minds would draw the bigger crowd. I hate to pick sides, but Deacon Blue are my favourite of the two; we have more history together, but in my naïveté I think I’m the only one still loving the work of Ricky Ross and company after all these years. How wrong was I?

First up are The Lottery Winners, a band I’d never heard of, but Mrs C was raving about, having seen them at an earlier gig. I can see and hear why. Their infectious brand of indie pop rock, whatever you want to categorise them as, wins over me and the crowd instantly, but even if they never performed a note, their frontman, Thom Rylance, is incredible. Some acts can kill a set with too much chat, but the masses are loving the banter. It’s raw, honest, and absolutely hilarious. I can see Thom landing his own TV show, if Keith Lemon ever takes a break.

Deacon Blue – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre (1)

Thom Rylance of The Lottery Winners


But the main attraction is of course the band who gave us classics such as ‘Wages Day’, ‘Twist and Shout’, and so many other feelgood bangers.

Opening with ‘City of Love, Queen of the New Year’ and the phenomenal ‘Fergus Sings the Blues’, I’m soon happier than a kid on Christmas morning.

The sublimely atmospheric ‘Your Town’ has long been a favourite. As I once told Ricky Ross (clang, sorry), that track should have graced the titles of a Hollywood thriller (as should many of DB’s songs), but as far as I know, it has yet to be the audio backdrop to a neon-lit, rain-soaked urban drama.

We’re also treated to the equally divine ‘Chocolate Girl’, and foot-tapper ‘Real Gone Kid’, which take many of us back decades.

Deacon Blue – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre (3)

“Perfect counterpoint”

Like so many others, I’ve been a fan since the late eighties when Deacon Blue were storming the charts, and circa 2017, saw them live at an indoor set in Harrogate. As amazing as that gig was, great bands sometimes need to be seen and heard outside, and I’m amazed this is the first time they’ve played Scarborough. The Open Air Theatre may as well have been built for this one gig, and on one of the longest days of the year, I’m delighted that the place is packed. I’ve never seen the OAT so full, and I couldn’t be happier, because all of us are in fine voice (even if clips of my off-camera voice sounds like Vic Reeves’ pub singer is in the house).

Ricky is genuinely amazed that so many of us have turned out, and not least because he’s had a spot of lurgy that may have affected his voice. You’d not know it. Those unmistakable vocals are as terrific as ever, but, as always, it’s partner Lorraine McIntosh who is the perfect counterpoint to his tones. I have no idea what magic energy she draws her power from, but it’s always an incredible sight to see. And that voice is like something sent from above, whatever higher force you might believe in. It’s like she and fellow Scot Sharleen Spiteri were at the front of the queue when they were handing out astonishing vocals, but this ain’t Texas. It’s definitely Deacon Blue, and I can’t get the stupid grin off my face all night.

Deacon Blue – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre (5)

“Thousands all sing”

There’s no big screen diversions, lasers, smoke machine or fireworks to distract from the main attraction. Just a band still at the top of their game who leave thousands of punters happy on a beautiful night. Even when Ricky remarks that, “Here’s a few words no one want to hear at a gig – one of our new tracks”, there are a few who take his advice and head to the bar, but most of us embrace the new music in our swaying arms.

It was inevitable that fans, like me, would go wild for ‘Dignity’, but the fact thousands all sing the first verse perfectly is testament to how much that song is loved.

“You’re breaking my heart Scarborough. Thank you,” remarks Ricky, while Lorraine bows her ‘Not worthy’ praise to the crowd. Of course everyone sings along to the rest of the song with the band, and it’s quite an extraordinary experience.

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“Wanting more”

“You know when you go to a party in Scotland, and there’s one guy in the kitchen with a guitar, and you’re trying to get home, and he’s murdering all your favourite songs. And there’s no way out because he’s leaning against the door? That’s me,” smiles Ricky before the band launch into a stripped down version of ‘Wages Day’. It’s 10:15pm, and 8,000 people are once more singing in unison. It may as well be hogmany and we’re all belting out a version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, the vibe is that idyllic.

All too soon it draws to a close, and Ricky, Lorraine and company definitely leave us wanting more.

This might be Deacon Blue’s first gig at the OAT, but based on the phenomenal response from the gathered fans, I’m pretty sure it won’t be their last.

I’ll definitely be back when they return to Scarborough, hopefully sooner rather than later.

images: Cuffe & Taylor


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