It’s funny how some artists who don’t ever label themselves as americana have a certain resonance with americana audiences – Del Amitri are one of those bands and notwithstanding the fact that they sometimes tend to veer dangerously close to dad rock territory at least in terms of the company they keep on MOR radio, tonight’s set in Manchester proved just what a great songwriter Justin Currie is and has always been. After all, the art of the song is at the heart of americana. Some reports of the previous night’s performance in Edinburgh was that it had been somewhat perfunctory – and the harshest thing you could say about tonight’s performance was that the setlist maybe was just that, but then with so many songs they more or less have to play to fit into a fairly limited set-time of an hour and fifteen minutes (plus one encore), they probably had little choice. Justin Currie engaged well with the audience throughout and hit all the right notes (metaphorically and literally) – with humour, self-deprecation and some nice observations including one about the benefits of realising that when you fuck up when you’re older, you come to expect it rather than think your world’s about to cave in. The band’s playing was effortless and Currie’s voice really is something to behold still – there’s a deeply felt resonance that still rolls through the lyrics of songs such as ‘Spit in the Rain’ and ‘Nothing Ever Happens’, the latter of which has always evoked a kind of timeless Raymond Carver narrative in its focus on mundanities, the irony of whole crowds belting them out not lost on Currie no doubt.
And there were one or two surprises, like the reprise of an old B-side (one for the fans) and a new song ‘You Can’t Go Back’ (although don’t get too excited – while Currie talked about trying to get a deal to release for their new album, Iain Harvey joked that they first had to record it). The gig felt like it had barely got going before it ended, but the encore ‘Move Away Jimmy Blue’ was as good enough song as any for these times: “Move away… before your small, small town turns around and swallows you.” Some people are doing exactly that right now. They’ll probably still come back to hear Del Amitri play.