Pop: Old tunes, new ache

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The Independent Culture
"HERE WITH the same old songs, but in a brand new order: Del Amitri!" Even this slightly self-mocking introduction acknowledged certain things about the band we were about to hear.

This Glaswegian quintet aren't about to embark on a radical change of direction, and to quote from one of their own tunes, they're simply "not where it's at". For those of us with a little bit more experience of Cupid's botched arrows and the great cosmic joke, none of this matters. Del Amitri's frontman, Justin Currie, is a songwriter more than capable of giving a fresh twist to the oldest themes, you see.

On "Just Like a Man" they evoked the earthiness of The Faces, while many supposedly "cooler" bands could have learnt a thing or two from the flabless arrangement of "Here and Now". As Currie eased into another chorus, you began to understand how they've chalked up 16 top 40 hits since they formed in 1980.

Iain Harvie, Currie's hirsute songwriting foil, joined his fellow guitarist Kris Dollimore to add sweet, perfectly pitched vocal harmonies to many hits.

It's the relationship songs that offer some of Currie's keenest insights, and the rather Rolling Stones-esque "Scared to Live" was a case in point. "We stopped making love in the hours of daylight too many moons ago," sings Currie at one point. It's a wonderfully accurate gauge of a love- affair in remission.

As "Driving With the Brakes On" demonstrated, Currie's just as good on the vague, existential ache: as he sang "Trying to keep the mood right, trying to steer the conversation forward", the German audience were with him.

At the request of the audience, they closed with an acoustic guitar and accordion-led version of "Be My Downfall", and Currie forgot the words. "Anybody out there in a band - never, ever practise," he joked. Then they were gone.

Del Amitri tour the UK from tomorrow to 20 November

James McNair