Yesterday, the finest band to emerge from Auchtermuchty*, Fife, The Proclaimers – brothers Craig and Charlie Reid’s soon to be 40-years-young outfit – announced a return to Australia in 2023. Beginning, appropriately enough, in Perth.
The last time they were here, in 2019, Craig Reid told me that while we had reason to be sceptical of politicians “who think you only have to appeal to your own, core voters and then you can do what you like”, it didn’t make him or others intrinsically better. “I don’t think artists are, by nature, any more trustworthy than anybody else,” he said (read the rest of that interview here). But most of us would have told him we’d put more trust in the brothers than our leaders.
Twenty years prior to this coming tour, in 2003, the Proclaimers played some smaller venues than are now planned, in what might have been something of a lull in their career in Australia at least. But as this review suggests, that didn’t change much about how they went about their business.
*Jimmy Shand fans might object to this claim, and it is possible the piano accordion king of traditional song, who was rocking the bespectacled look before the brothers were even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes and, it is claimed, recorded more songs than The Beatles and Elvis Presley (neither of whom, unfortunately for them, were from Perthshire), has outsold the Reids.
It is almost certain that his version of Bluebell Polka (produced by George Martin, who wasn’t from Perthshire either but did some work with the, sadly English, Beatles) has not been bettered by anyone wearing a kilt, glasses and respectable highland socks. Ask any fans of Dunfermline Athletic.
However, for our purposes today we surely can agree that while Auchtermuchty’s Jimmy had his band, he was not himself a band, while Craig and Charlie most certainly are.
Panthers Evan Theatre, November 14, 2003
YOU’VE BEEN RECORDING SOLIDLY for some two decades, still writing, still playing. But most of your audience tonight would be hard-pressed to name a song you recorded in the '90s, let alone your most recent album.
What do you do: pout or play as if all your songs are favourites?
The Proclaimers chose the latter.
The opening songs are delivered with the brio of the Clash. Not for them the polite ``oh aye we're a wee Scots band''. The piano and guitar compete for attention as the Reid brothers belt out.
That they are a rock band and one with its roots in the “new wave'' early '80s is made clear when we get to the first of what you could call their famous five songs over and done with.
Unlike the original version on their debut album, this is muscular and with a drummer flailing and pounding like Keith Moon they give it some decent welly. It's almost a shame when I'm on My Way brings them back to a pub singalong. It's a simple song and you can see why it's been a hit with the kids since an appearance in Shrek.
However, it's probably their simplest and least interesting song, but that's not a quibble the clapping and bouncing audience will make.
It's interesting to ponder what this audience, in a federal electorate that's been solidly John Howard's since 1996, make of the essentially republican notion in Cap In Hand, with lyrics such as ``I can't understand how you let someone else rule your land cap in hand''.
But when you play every song not just as if you mean it but as if you're living it for the first time you could sell insurrection to the church. There is the secret to The Proclaimers: they deliver their songs so vehemently that they leave no room for doubt.
In 2023, The Proclaimers will play: Perth Concert Hall, February 24; Darwin Entertainment Centre, February 26; Cairns Performing Arts Centre, February 28; QPAC, Brisbane, March 2; HOTA Theatre 1, Gold Coast, March 3; State Theatre, Sydney, March 4; Odeon Theatre, Hobart, March 7; Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne, March 9-10; Adelaide (venue tbc), March 11.