Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
20th April 2013
Back in 2005, Edwyn Collins suffered a potentially fatal double brain haemorrhage, from which his gradual recovery has left him with a clenched right hand and a walking stick. Therefore, it is something of a remarkable achievement that the 53-year-old former Orange Juice frontman is not only touring to promote his eighth solo album – released on his own AED label last month – but that it is also one of his best works yet.
Collins enters the stage with the aid of a silver-topped cane to huge applause. Perching on the edge of an amplifier, he greets his audience, glances at his lyric sheets on the stand beside him and proceeds to open his set with Orange Juice’s ‘Falling and Laughing’ – the first ever single to be released on Postcard Records.
Collins’ band are a brilliant group of stellar individuals; James Walbourne (guitar, saxophone and harmonica), Andy Hackett (guitar), Carwyn Ellis (keyboards and bass) and Liam Hutton (drums). Vocal harmonies during songs like ‘Make Me Feel Again’ are pitch perfect and all musical arrangements are delivered with precise timing. The hall begins to fill with whistles and applause before Collins interrupts them. “Wait! Wait!”, he exclaims. A brief pause and he concludes the song, “… again”.
Collins endearingly forgets the title of his next song naming it ’34 Years’ – Hackett corrects him. “31, of course it is! It’s dysphasia… I apologise, Andy!”. Collins proves he is still light-hearted and can poke fun at himself. Encouraging the crowd to laugh along with him, it is apparent that even the band find his charming humour effective. Title track of latest album, Understated’ (LTW review) proves to be a crowd-pleaser, as the majority sway from side to side in their seats.
‘Too Bad’ witnesses the welcoming of a guest vocalist – Collins’ son, William, to be precise. As Collins describes it, the song is “a bit mo-towny” and delivers another slight up in tempo and a killer guitar solo from Walbourne. Collins junior takes up the bass whilst singing alongside his father during following track, ‘In Your Eyes’ – a truly lovely moment, which seems to have the audience captivated.
“Losing Sleep?”, offers Collins to his adoring fans. Needless to say, they lap it up – one man in particular, as a very loud “waheyyy!” echoes around the room.
The show thunders to a climax with Orange Juice’s biggest hit, ‘Rip It Up’. The audience clap along with the intro and many stand up to have a bit of a groove. All parts are performed perfectly, including Walbourne’s fantastic saxophone solo. Spirits remain high as the band strike up ‘A Girl Like You’. Even more figures are seen rising up to dance along, whilst those whom remain seated shuffle away in comfort. Collins belts out the last line, lifts his stick in the air and walks offstage as the band finish off the proceedings. On completion of the song, Walbourne and co. follow suit.
Of course, there is an encore, which sees Collins, Walbourne and Ellis reappear to perform ‘Home Again’. The room is dark and deadly silent, apart from the beautiful vocal melodies and the two perfectly synchronised acoustic guitars. ‘Down The Line’ proves to be a good choice to follow it and contains a stunning keys solo from Ellis. Orange Juice’s ‘Blue Boy’ and early solo single ‘Don’t Shilly Shally’ leave everyone elated, including the band and Collins himself, who stomps his cane in time to the rhythm. Once more, the cane is raised high in triumph as Collins leaves the stage to a standing ovation – one that is very well deserved indeed.