Dexys | Stockton Weekender | Stockton | 28 Jul 2013

Sublime Dexys Performance...

The Stockton Weekender Festival is fast becoming one of the North's best music events in terms of both organisation and billing. Indeed it may be the best already. Since the festival started charging for admission a few years ago and seems to have done two things - deter some of the more loutish behaviour and exponentially attract higher calibre artists year on year. Tees Music Alliance has put in a lot of hard work and it really seems to be paying off.

James, The Pogues, We Are Scientists, Jake Bugg, The Human League, The Lightning Seeds, Mercury Rev, Charlatans, Supergrass, Badly Drawn Boy, Happy Mondays, British Sea Power, Paul Heaton, Super Furry Animals, Seasick Steve, Cast and Maximo Park have all performed on the main stage over the past couple of years, and the most recent festival saw Primal Scream, Spiritualized, up and comers Kodaline, The Proclaimers and Dexys performing.

Local bands are not forgotten either. The Chapman Family kicked off the festival on Friday evening at the Georgian Theatre with their final performance before going their separate ways. The Panoramic, Palace, Weird Shapes, The Lake Poets and the Levellers-like Jar Family all acquitted themselves well doing the region proud.

As good as many of the bands on the line-up were (especially Kodaline) I'd like to focus on the performance of Dexys, the Sunday night headliner. The band has a history stretching back over thirty five years and during that time have released only four albums. Many bands would be delighted to release only one album of the scope, sure-footedness, daring and sheer quality of any of "Searching For The Young Soul Rebels", "Too-Rye-Ay", "Don't Stand Me Down" or last year's "One Day I'm Going To Soar". But to release four is remarkable.

Visuals have always been important to Kevin Rowland and the current line up seem to prefer one that has been described as a Cotton Club style, but let's just leave it there, because the look doesn't matter, what matters is the music. And as far as the music is concerned the band delivered a performance of stunning quality.

Rowland is a dynamic performer, using every inch of the stage and making his gestures count to fully engage the audience and keep their attention. As lovers of their back catalogue know, Rowland loves to use a conversational style in his songs. It may annoy some, but to others, myself included, it works brilliantly drawing you into the songs and involving you in the action. His mid-song chats with originally Dexys member Pete Williams were always fun and the stunning interplay with Madelaine Hyland on "She Got A Wiggle", "I'm Always Going To Love You" and "Incapable Of Love" was nothing short of breathtaking. The boy-meets-girl-they-get-together-boy-gets-cold-feet-they-break-up tale recounted over these three songs is acted out in dramatic fashion with Hyland so involved in the action that tears were clearly visible in her eyes. And all this in the first half of the show...

Things didn't slow down after that tour-de-force. Much of the last album was performed but old favourites were not forgotten as "Liars A to E", "Geno", "Come On Eileen" and a mammoth version of "This Is What She's Like" were all performed. On stage, Rowland was far from the dour character that he is often portrayed as in the media, smiling at people in the audience, joking with band members and generally looking as though he was having a ball.

There were only two downsides to the evening. Firstly it had to end, and second I spent a disproportionate amount of time mentally kicking myself for not seeing any of the previous "One Day I'm Going To Soar" shows. They still have a couple of festival performances at Wickham and Bestival this summer and take it from me - their set is worth the admission price alone.

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