DEXYS – BRIGHTON DOME 19.9.23
Brighton’s sunny weather had taken a bit of a dip at this point in the week, but even this wasn’t enough to prevent the hordes of ‘Young Soul Rebels’ (and many young at heart ones, come to that) from witnessing the triumphant return of Dexys performing on their latest tour, at Brighton Dome.
The last time they played this particular venue was way back in 2012, when they were here to promote (and theatrically perform) their last brilliant album, ‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’. It was a memorable night for all and one of my favourite gigs of that year, so anticipation was high tonight for Dexys first concert here in eleven years.
This time, they were here to perform their latest highly acclaimed sixth album, ‘The Feminine Divine’ which came out on 28th July. It soon garnered rave reviews and went straight into the UK charts at No. 6, which is the highest chart position the band have enjoyed in over thirty years. Kevin Rowland and his band never take the predictable route and this album is no exception to that rule. Self described as “Music hall-esque swagger with saucy synth heavy cabaret” and I would say that is pretty close to the mark.. It’s also an album that comes with an important and personal message too, and upon its launch to the public, the press release read as follows:
“After taking time out to refocus his energy, Kevin Rowland came back to music with a fresh perspective and new found positivity. A personal, if not strictly autobiographical record, portraying a man whose views have evolved over time. Not just on women, but the whole concept of masculinity he had been raised with”.
After hearing the album personally on numerous occasions, I am officially intrigued and am interested in how it will be translated on stage tonight. It’s an album of two halves (weren’t they all in the olden days?). The first half’s songs are in more of a traditional soulful vein that we know and love Dexys for. The second half has more of an electronic feel to it with a certain dance element on display. Tonight, we were warned, is also a night of two halves. We are to expect two sets from the band tonight and the first one will involve a performance of ‘The Feminine Divine’ album in its entirety. The second half of the evening will involve lots of hits and fan favourites from their back catalogue (from their formation in 1978 and onwards).
We got into the venue just before showtime, and of course the place was already choc-a-bloc full of loyal and expectant Dexys fans (some of which had been travelling the country, taking in every date of the tour). You could feel the buzz in the air as people took to their seats, ready for the night’s entertainment to unfold. As the 8pm bells chimed, the lights dimmed as the band took to the stage, and Kevin commented to the crowd on how dark it was.
Before we knew it, the stage was illuminated in a purple light as the band kicked off with the first song from the new album, ‘The One That Loves You’. Long gone are the woolly hats and donkey jackets from their early years as the current band enjoy an individualist look, including Kevin Rowland looking resplendent in a stripey top, jaunty hat and trousers held aloft with braces. Very few people can pull this look off but Kevin Rowland is certainly one of them, and I salute him for that.
The second song played tonight was current earworm ‘It’s Alright Kevin (Manhood 2023)’ which upon hearing, will be sure to get stuck in your head for weeks (my wife and I can attest to that). Next up was the lead off single from ‘The Feminine Divine’ album called ‘I’m Going To Get Free’ which is a joyous and soulful tune that had the crowd singing along and waving their arms in the air, proving that the new album has already imprinted itself in their minds. I couldn’t help noticing that the music at this point sounded rather quiet, but then reminded myself that this performance was set up as more of a stage play rather than a typical gig. There were various interactions between Kevin’s character and the rest of the band which made a good segue between songs as he tried to win over the female character of the story (played by multi instrumentalist, Claudia Chopek). There was even an early tussle onstage between Kevin and his keyboardist Sean Read, but of course it was all part of the show.
The next songs were the more dancey songs on the album, beginning with the title track which almost had a laid back Madchester feel to it. As we were getting down to these particular grooves the band suddenly hit us with the spectacular ballad that is ‘My Submission’. Kevin Rowland’s vocals really shone through on this song, and when he hit the high notes, my spine shivered. He really nailed his falsetto vocal in this song, as it built to a dramatic climax. The closer of this set was a funky little number by the name of ‘Dance With Me’ which reminded me melody-wise, of a certain song by the Walrus Of Love. The band then left the stage as we took a brief fifteen minute interval.
People in the bar seemed very pleased with Dexys first set, and my friend Gerard was celebrating his 60th birthday by being here tonight. I quickly grabbed my glass of H20 and headed back to my seat for the much anticipated ‘Greatest Hits’ section of the evening.
As the lights dimmed again, we could hear the unmistakeable voice of Mr Rowland as he sang ‘Soon’ followed by ‘Plan B’ from Dexys Midnight Runners’ ‘Too-Rye-Ay’ album. The sound at this point had reached the decibel level my gigging ears were accustomed to, and the crowd were letting loose at this point of the night. The man behind us was dancing so hard in his seat, he was using his whole body (if that makes sense). If I tried to replicate this act, I am sure I would end up in a crumpled heap for all to laugh and point at.
Dexys were playing banger after banger (youth speak) and much of the crowd were standing up in their seats. The last song of the set was 80’s singalong classic, ‘Come On Eileen’ which predictably got everyone else off their bums and on to their mildly restrictive dancefloors (dance aisles?). As the final chords were struck, Kevin thanked the crowd and the band took a bow as they left the stage.
The crowd weren’t going anywhere mind you, as they waited expectantly for an encore whilst chanting the immortal ‘Geno!’ and stamping their feet in an impatient fashion. They were thankfully and duly rewarded with that very tune, and as that song blared out of the speakers my spine shivered yet again.
That was followed by a brilliant rendition of ‘Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)’ which truly made my night. They even projected a picture of Jocky Wilson (Darts Icon) onto the backdrop mid-song, as a nod and a wink to the famous ‘Top Of The Pops’ faux pas incident in the 80’s. Those two songs were worth the price of admission alone and the music at this point, reached a whole new level for me. As the band were getting into their stride, it was sadly time for them to say farewell to their Brighton fans. But not before treating them to a fan favourite, ‘Tell Me When My Light Turns Green’ which hasn’t been played live by the band since 2013. I had the feeling that this was quite a moment for the fans and what a way to end the night.
I can safely say that a good night was had by all. Kevin Rowland has lost none of his unique soulful vocal power and the band were top notch tonight. Dexys show no signs of slowing down though, as they play the London Palladium on Wednesday followed by a European tour, plus their first U.S tour in 40 years! Long may the Young Soul Rebels continue….
The band line up tonight consists of:
Kevin Rowland – vocals, guitar, piano, bass
Sean Read – guitar, sax, keyboards
Claudia Chopek – vocals, violin, viola
Michael Timothy – keyboards
Alistair Whyte – trombone
Tim Weller – drums
The Feminine Divine:
‘The One That Loves You’
‘It’s Alright Kevin (Manhood 2023)’
‘I’m Going To Get Free’
‘The Feminine Divine’
‘My Goddess Is’
‘Dance With Me’
‘Soon’ (Dexys Midnight Runners cover)
‘Plan B’ (Dexys Midnight Runners cover)
‘I’ll Show You’ (Dexys Midnight Runners cover)
‘All In All (This One Last Wild Waltz)’ (Dexys Midnight Runners cover)
‘Until I Believe In My Soul’ (Dexys Midnight Runners cover)
‘Come On Eileen’ (Dexys Midnight Runners cover)
‘Geno’ (Dexys Midnight Runners cover)
‘Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)’ (Van Morrison cover)
‘Tell Me When My Light Turns Green’ (Dexys Midnight Runners cover)
Note: The Feminine Divine set was presented in three acts: I: ‘Getting Honest’, II: ‘Attitude to Women’, III: ‘The Relationship’