Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dexys' Concert Film Soars

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and Mrs. LTL! came through in a big way. She got me both of my wants from Dexys: the recently released live four-album AND double DVD versions of 'Nowhere Is Home' I mentioned last month. What a gal! For a whole host of reasons, I didn't get around to the concert film directed by Paul Kelly and Kieran Evans until this evening. It came just in time too. If you saw the Vinyl Villain's post today about Kevin Rowland's professional low point, you know why I desperately needed to see the enigmatic performer at one of his brightest moments. Shake it off...

Dexys' 2012 album, 'One Day I'm Going to Soar,' was the band's first in more than a quarter of a century. As Rowland is oft to do, he completely redefined their sound, and the story he told drew me in like no other record that year. I had read reviews of the accompanying live performances during Dexys' residence at London's Duke of York's Theatre in 2013, and it became obvious that as well received as the album had been by fans and critics alike, this was a piece of art best experienced on stage. Back here in America, this realization left me with a hole in my heart... until tonight. I own very few live shows on DVD. Brian Wilson's 'Smile,' Talking Heads' 'Stop Making Sense' and Big Country's New Year's Eve show at Barrowland in 1983/4 are just about the only ones I have watched multiple times. The others just sit on the shelf collecting dust after one viewing. Concerts just aren't meant for television, but this one worked for me like no other. There are no shots of the crowd or mixed-in applause. There is no "good evening, London!" from the maestro's microphone. This is all about the performance, and it feels much more like a dramatic play than the tired old rock show you've seen a thousand times.

'Nowhere Is Home' pulls off the feat in a seemingly simple way. There are two interspersed elements to the film. Rowland, with a little help from trombonist "Big Jim" Paterson, tells the tale of Dexys between songs being performed on stage. The conversation feels intimate, like a couple of fellas shooting the shit with you over a beer. Rowland opens with "I was a no-hoper. Prison was a real possibility for me. And when this opportunity presented itself, I wasn't going to screw it up." There's more talk of the early days, but much more time is spent on assembling the current incarnation of the band and creating "One Day I'm Going to Soar." The two big takeaways from this monologue are that Rowland has no interest in playing the hits, at least in a nostalgic cash-grab sort of way, and that this band means everything to him. "I've bled for Dexys quite a few times," he tells us, and that passion comes through in the show. That feeling of giving it all for his craft is palpable.

The songs that work best on stage are the ones that showcase his relationship with the female antagonist played by Madeleine Hyland. Emotions run the gambit, from lust, to rage to tenderness to heartbreak through the album's best songs, "She Got a Wiggle, "I'm Always Going to Love You" and "Incapable of Love." Now I know I just went on forever about how it's all about 'One Day I'm Going to Soar,' but my favorite moment of the entire performance was the closing 12-minute rendition of "This Is What She's Like." This is not about looking back. The song is a perfect fit for the themes of the evening... and it just happens to be my No. 1 song from Rowland and Co.

If this is on your Christmas list, and it should be, here are a couple of things you need to know, especially if you're American. It's best to buy this DVD from a UK outlet. Amazon is selling it for a whopping $56 right now, and that's just ridiculous. Even with shipping you can save a bundle getting it overseas, but beware: Make sure your DVD player can read discs from Europe.

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