Wednesday 28 September 2022

Ian Brown / Dermo - Edinburgh O2 Academy - 27th September 2022

“Do you like me band?” The third night of the Ian Brown tour rolls into town with the added attraction of a set from former Northside frontman Dermo. Stuart Ralston went along. 

The Edinburgh O2 Academy was the venue formally known as Edinburgh Corn Exchange. Older readers will note that it’s not my favourite venue but a chance to see Ian Brown - back on stage since the Roses split five years ago - is too good an opportunity to miss. 

Arriving on the scene in the late 80s and signing to the legendary Factory Records, Northside delivered one album and several classic singles back in their heyday before folding a few years later. Those singles and that album were much revered though and several well received reunion tours took place sporadically. After his new punk adventures with Time For Action, singer Warren Dermo Dermody has returned to the Northside back catalogue as special guest of Ian Brown for this tour. 

Accompanied by Steven Ness on guitar and backing vocals from Leah Wallis, Dermo and his band reimagine those aforementioned Northside classics - opening with album track Who’s To Blame? before the big hitters My Rising Star, Take 5, Moody Places and Shall We Take A Trip? - all delightfully reworked and augmented by Leah’s vocals. There’s even time for a new / unreleased tune too (Where We Can Be) and to round the set off, local-ish lad Steven Ness gives the crowd a little bit of Flower of Scotland. Dermo looks like he’s having a ball and the crowd enjoy it too. 

The most talked about artist in the country this week and he hasn’t released a record in three years or graced a stage for over five! The opening night in Leeds created a social media stir when it emerged Ian was playing without a band, singing to backing tracks.

Born Free booms over the PA before Ian Brown takes to the stage. Pints are raised aloft as he takes the stage, opening with The Feeding Of The 5000 and he’s in fine voice. The timeless Be There - his collaboration with UNKLE follows and there’s a lot of love for Ian in the packed room. Moving around the stage like his idol Muhammad Ali, Love Like a Fountain is another hit with the crowd and the adulation continues to grow.  Gettin' High sees yet further moves as he owns the stage. 

In truth, we don’t actually miss a band. Ian owns every area of the Academy stage.  Sister Rose - the standout track from The World Is Yours - has a great beat and an early highlight in this marathon career spanning set with Ian engaging with the crowd throughout. He looks as fit as ever and he never stops. He’s enjoying himself too. Perhaps his impressive back catalogue at times is overlooked because of his illustrious band but songs such The Dream And The Dreamer from his impressive new album (this is effectively the long overdue Ripples 2019 LP tour) deserve to be heard and The Dream And The Dreamer is the pick of that album. 

It’s an impressive set, with Brown revisiting all his solo albums. Sure, there’s nothing from his Roses days but he doesn’t need to go there on this tour as he has amassed such an impressive solo back catalogue. First World Problems, the lead track from the last album, gets the biggest response of the night and there’s a real party atmosphere. 

Ian sings Just Like You with a real passion which really connects with the Edinburgh crowd and a massed dance ensues as Dolphins Were Monkeys begins. Brown talks of the inspiration behind Golden Gaze before the stage turns gold. It’s an impressive light show. The Declaration of Arbroath was the inspiration for 2009’s My Way track Marathon Man. For me, All Ablaze is the standout solo tune from Ian and doesn’t disappoint tonight - a real highlight. 

As the set draws to a close, Stellify unites the capacity crowd as does debut solo single My Star. The set ends with Set My Baby Free and FEAR, with every arm in the venue aloft. After 5 years away, it perhaps wasn’t what we expected, yet Ian Brown pulled it off in his own inimitable style; there’s smiles all around.


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