REVIEW / The outlook is wet: Del Amitri - Town & Country

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The Independent Culture
IN an interesting new twist on borrowing other people's material, del Amitri began their performance with some sampled rabble-rousing. It was hot-blooded stuff, some Southern hell-fire preacher (with a delivery that made Ian Paisley sound deferential) exhorting the crowd to stand up and be counted. You might conclude from this that del Amitiri don't have much faith in their own charisma. And indeed it was only after the preacher had been switched off and the dry-ice had settled that you realised there was a band up there on stage, playing.

Beneath a barrage of coloured lights and strobes, there appeared to be five of them, all guitars, side-burns and, to complete the sense of Seventies time-warp, waistcoats. They were pumping away at the sort of unassuming, guitar-led soft-rock which you happen upon when tuning the car radio half-way down a Utah freeway. Tom Petty with a Scots accent, Foreigner minus the middle-aged spread.

But it's astonishingly popular: their Number One album Change Everything is threatening to sell as many as their previous Waking Hours, which, thanks to huge success in America, kept several South African gold mines in work. As the bouncy bass, the guitar sweeps and the 'C'mon let's kiss this thing goodbye' lyrics played on, the couples in the audience looked into each other's eyes with recognition of the earnest truth of it all.

Justin Currie, the bass-playing singer with a voice that sounds as if he is permanently on the brink of laryngitis, and Iain Harvie, the guitarist with a lip-chewing grimace of concentration, are adept at writing neat tunes about the disappointments of personal relationships. Their favourite metaphor for this, perhaps because they came from Glasgow, is rain.

'Spit in the Rain', for instance, which began intriguingly with Currie on the acoustic guitar and Andy Austin playing a mandolin program on his keyboards, was all about a grim meteorological outlook mirroring an unhappy affair. 'This next song's got rain in it too,' said Currie when that number had finished. 'But only to rhyme with again. We're not really pessimists.' This was, presumably, Scots irony because the very song he was introducing chorused 'I've had enough bad news to last a lifetime'.

From this it should not be assumed that the audience was having an unhappy time. In fact, as one sad little rocker merged into another, they were working up a deoderant-threatening frenzy. The biggest reaction was reserved for the final number, 'Nothing Ever Happens', the del boys' most accomplished piece of singalong student angst. With an accordian accompaniment and lyrics such as 'And they'll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow', it is an uplifting piece of melancholia nearly on a par with 'Eleanor Rigby'.

After much insistence from the audience they encored with their new single 'Be My Downfall', a melodic enough number about infidelity. But it is nothing compared to their biggest hit which had preceded it. And the band seem to think as much. During their reprise of 'Nothing Ever Happens', Currie and Austin went into a protracted duet.

'That's a little trick we learnt from Don McLean,' quipped Currie when they had finished. 'It's called stringing out your only hit.'

It was a good gag. Accurate, too.