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Dexys @ Coventry Kasbah, UK – 25 June 2014

Tonight we’re rocking the Kasbah, so to speak –  as we’ve journeyed over to Coventry to hang out with local legends playing one of a trio of gigs before they take to the Glastonbury stage. Rain is predicted at the Festival – but here in the Kasbah it’s increasingly warm as the flocks have come to see one of the true eccentrics of the music scene, Kevin Rowland and his band of merry lads and lasses - Dexys.

Dexys Midnight Runners (now shortened to just Dexys), formed way back in 1978. It was hit ‘Geno’ (a tribute to soul singer Geno Washington) that brought them to the attention of the masses and an image that included donkey jackets, leather coats and woolly hats; ‘Mean Streets’ style. And then to commercial success in the early 80‘s and change of image as the band adorned dungarees and scarfs – an effective rag-taggle off-the-farm look and they went all Celtic folk rock with album ‘Too-Rye-Ay’ featuring the rip-roaring ‘Come On Eileen’. You could say a lot has happened since then, Rowland has had, what could be called, an ‘interesting’ journey and it took over 25 years before Dexys recorded and released their fourth studio album ‘One Day I’m Going to Soar’ in 2012.  They toured pretty extensively that year and tonight this album plays a key part as the first half of the set. Sadly Madeleine Hyland couldn’t make this tour so in her place, we have former Banarama and Shakespear Sister Siobhan Fahey.

Scarily, it’s been 30 years since Dexys placed in Coventry, a huge period of time by anyone’s standards, so tonight’s crowd are pretty expectant. And we have to say, that the crew at the Kasbah are a friendly, helpful bunch which is always a massive plus at any venue. And as we sip our drinks before the band are due to take the stage (there’s no support and Dexys aren’t due on ‘til around 8.30pm), some choose to check out the BBQ that is merrily wafting delicious smells in the warm summers evening.

Taking our places in the venue, the lights go down and it’s in darkness. Keyboard and violin mesmerisingly ring out, and we’re already feeling pretty mellow in the dark, as the band take their places. A single spot light picks out Rowland, akin in hat and shades, red and yellow jacket, stripped shirt and brogue shoes in accompaniment. Parisian retro style starts here – clearly the incarnation of Dexys 2014. “It was way beck in the forties…” he starts off, as we’ve led sublimely into ‘Now.’

Song completes to a huge cheer from the crowd, and now lit in the middle of the set is a white chair.. Rowland sits and takes us into ‘Lost’ – we’re in the blues baby. Tonights set is Dexys art-house style, acting, miming, interpreting alongside the song; more performance than gig. Rowland’s voice is still that distinctive nasal slur and he remains introvertly eccentric, far more comfortable in his persona when singing or acting with his band mates, less comfortable engaging directly with the audience. Band members appear on stage, this performance they are arguing over a girl, a mock fight, then sorry – acting, yet miming at the same time. And the band roll on and on with the blues inspired rhythm.

Rowland and Pete Williams now share vocal duties – part chat, partly sung as up on the balcony a Parisian styled, subtlety lit, Siobhan Fahey joins in – ‘She’s Got A Wiggle’ – which indeed she undoubtably has.

‘One Day I’m Going to Soar’ is a different Dexys. It features subtle blues, 70’s funk and at times its gets us bopping along and tracks roll on and on – the band are tight, vocal duties shared between Rowland, Williams and Fahey. Dexys 2014 are cool, they’re the blues and as opposed to being in a sweaty club we are transformed to chilled-out green fields, the summer sun blazing down, grass wafting in the breeze, glass of wine in hand….

“Thank you so much…” Rowland speaks directly to the audience. As the first part of set concludes we’re building to the ‘hits’ section of the gig. A comic moment as Rowland can’t control the mike stand and the mike slides down to it’s shortest height. Williams quips that “…comedy is introduced into the show….” and promptly continues to take the mick, in a friendly and jovial way.

“Remember this?” we’re asked as Dexys take us into renditions of ‘There, There My Dear’ – versions from ‘82 and back to ‘80. Banter between Rowland and Williams - “…Been searching…”; “What have you been searching for”; “…. Searching for different things…”’; “Just things….” and as he sings Rowland paces from side to side of the stage like a caged tiger.

‘Geno’ 2014 edition is not as angsty as the original – indeed, we’re bright and breezy and calypso. It’s all funked up – indeed let’s take a trip to the Caribbean…

The classic ‘Come On Eileen’ maybe isn’t so frenetic these days (well Rowlands is hitting 60) and gone, as said are the dungarees and straw hats, but it is a full 16 minutes long, as the band chill in the middle, Williams and Rowland chant the chorus, before cranking it up to a grand finale.

The band line up to take a bow – all 9 of them excluding Fahey, before they’re back on. Banter and chat commences – acting returns, “You alright?”. “I’m alright” Playing on ya mind…” “So what’s she like?…” come the dulcet Brummigan tones as indeed we get Dexys opus  ’This is What She’s Like….’

During a quieter moment a punter shouts “Better than the World Cup!” (which admittedly, especially where England are concerned, wouldn’t be difficult!), an introduction to each band member gets a great response form the crowd, as the track rolls on and on an on… and we dance and bop until finally the band take their leave.

Dexys 2014 are not the Dexys that most people would recognize from their heyday. That’s long ago – don’t let that detract – they are deep and introspective, charismatic, arty, but also are a great band – tight and professional with Williams and Rowland great vocal sparring partners. I’m sure at the right time on the right stage they will go down well at Glastonbury. Check them out – they may not be what you may expect from Dexys Midnight Runners – they are indeed Dexys – the core talent and unique eccentricity remains. Indeed, I don’t know about one day, but I am sure that they are indeed soaring…

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Review for Gig Junkies; pictures Ken Harrison