Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
The Public Reviews Rating:
The recorded output of the Proclaimers shows a mass of contradictions. The basic format of acoustic instruments and clear vocals is best suited to folk music but their unbelievably catchy melodies have given them success in the pop charts. They have achieved universal appeal despite retaining their regional accents and their dogged support for Scottish independence. Aside from their obvious talent much of the appeal of the twins, Craig and Charlie Reid , lies in the fact that they come across as unaffected by fame and seem like people you would bump into in the street.
In concert the group creates even more confusion. A four-piece backing band (electric guitar, bass, keyboards and drums) joins the duo. The result is a sound closer to straightforward rock than folk or pop. An audience clearly happy to participate welcomes this more raucous approach. Efforts to clap along are drowned out by the noise of the band but this doesn’t stop people old enough to know better from attempting to seat dance and perform Mexican waves. Disapproving glares from the ushers maintain control until the band perform ‘On My Way’ at which point The Lowry goes discreetly nuts.
The live format shows the strengths and weaknesses of the twins. With no sign of haste or cheats, such as medleys or slurred vocals, they perform a vast number of crowd- pleasing numbers. In a time of manufactured singers it is a rare pleasure to hear people who can, you know, sing. If anything the vocals are even more impressive live than on record. The phrasing is as clear as a bell and the harmonisation beautiful.
The Proclaimers are let down by their lyrics. The simple song format is fine for romantic or nostalgic numbers but the lack of ambiguity makes the more political songs like ‘Cap In Hand’ seem like preaching. They are not good interpreters of other writers’ songs. Their note perfect version of ‘My Old Friend the Blues’ lacks the exhausted resignation of Steve Earle’s original.
The harder edge of the Proclaimers live is both a surprise and a pleasure. It provides a level of excitement and makes numbers that might be over-familiar feel fresh. The audience certainly has no complaints and leaves happily singing along to yet another of the group’s catchy numbers.