Craig and Charlie Reid have come along way since they signed off the dole in a bleak benefit office on Edinburgh’s west side and signed onto the government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme, with which they helped to fund the first six months of their musical career as The Proclaimers .  Ten albums, a musical and a film based on their songs, and a track in the Shrek soundtrack later, they are playing the second of two sold out gigs on their home turf, there’s a pre-Christmas buzz in the Edinburgh air and a palpable sense of excitement in the auditorium. Proclaimers2s

First to the stage though is The Pete Williams Band whose opening song reminds me of the Seventies pub-rock sound of Brinsley Schwartz without the keyboards. Pub-rock got a bit of a bad reputation once punk came along but it was in fact highly melodic with influences from rock and roll, rhythm and blues and country music and doesn’t deserve its tarnished reputation.  It transpires that Pete Williamswas a founding, and still occasional, member of Dexys Midnight Runners – he doesn’t tell us this, I committed the cardinal sin of  mid-gig Googling – but once you know, a slight similarity to Kevin Rowland’s vocals becomes obvious.  Williams avoids Rowland’s histrionics and idiosyncrasies though.  Also, while Dexys music often strayed into artifice, seeming more like musical theatre, Williams keeps it all about the music.  He comes across as a thoroughly likeable bloke and his set goes down well with the audience.  When I got home I gave his new album Roughnecks and Roustabouts a listen and can highly recommend it.

And so to the main event.  This is the first time I’ve seen The Proclaimers live.  One morning last year I walked past Craig on the way to the dentist’s but I don’t suppose that counts.  I was on the way to the dentist’s, by the way,not him.  Well, he may have been on the way to the dentist’s but if he was, it wasn’t my dentist.  Sorry, I digress.

Edinburgh loves its own and when the brothers take the stage accomplished by their band, the roof threatens to come off.  From the first line of The Sky Takes The Soul from their debut album, This Is The Story, it’s clear that of the 3000 people here tonight, 2999 of them are going to sing along and be word perfect with every song. Three songs in, if the wind has been in the right direction, it seems entirely likely that Letter From America was heard somewhere in Wisconsin.

Sunshine On Leith is as good as a song as been written by anyone ever.  My heart was broken, My heart was broken; eight words in two lines, delivered with a devastating economy that contains worlds of meaning.  We are less than 2 miles from the heart of Leith tonight and hearing Craig and Charlie sing this really is one of those shivers up the spine moments, bolstered by a beautiful steel guitar solo from Zac Ware.

A night of top tunes is inevitably topped off by a storming rendition of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).  I’m left wondering how any encore is ever going to be able to match that but Make My Heart Fly, Joyful Kilmarnock Blues and Life With You show me how, leaving the audience clamouring for more after the house lights go up. The Proclaimers may have come far but it’s good to have them home.

John Scott

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