Most bands still active after more than a quarter of a century will have slumped into self-parody and irrelevance as they release yet another LP that is, if they’re lucky, touted as their best since the last one that was actually any good, but is more likely to be ignored and forgotten within a month of its appearance.
The Blue Nile’s debut album came out in 1983 – the year that Thatcher won a landslide on the back of the Falkands war and set about ripping up the social fabric of the country. Some of you weren’t even born then! Since the appearance of Walk Across The Rooftops, the hardest working band in showbusiness (irony division) have come up with three more. It’s a source of both amusement and frustration to the group’s fans, but looking at it from a broader perspective, it’s a catalogue with very little fat on it. Over the course of that quarter century, the band’s music hasn’t really changed. It’s still lush, nostalgic, synth-swept melancholy with islands of rousing hope. And it still has the capacity to raise goose-bumps, particularly as many of these songs have become woven into the fabric of listeners’ lives over the years, so each is imbued with an extra layer of uniquely personal references. They stay with you for life, and become a part of it.
There’s seldom much surprising about a Blue Nile show (bar the fact that it’s actually happening). It’s too easy to slip into the cliches applied to hundreds of other shows in hundreds of other reviews – the grandeur, the melancholy, the moments of heartbreak, Paul Buchanan’s vulnerable yet hopeful vocals. They are like the records, really, but bigger and punchier. The crowd stomp and cheer and quip between songs, but each sits alone with their own emotional reactions during them. The one exception is the mass singalong to “Tinseltown in the Rain”, a kind of unofficial Glasgow city anthem.
Of course it was brilliant. In some ways, though, it was disappointing – not because of what was on offer, but what wasn’t. In other words, those desperately sought, near-mythical beasts, new songs. When Paul Buchanan played a trio of solo-billed shows at the same venue almost exactly two years go, there were two. Tonight? One of those, “The Runaround Girl”, was played. And that was it. What we did get was a hour and a half set skewed towards the first two albums which included a rare outing for “Family Life”. And an encore of “Strangers in the Night” which was equal parts cheese and high romance.
This was the first of three nights at the RCH. Perhaps the next two will see the unveiling of a raft of new material! Perhaps not. I think I’ll have a few more grey hairs before album five sees the light of day.