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Second, third, fourth coming?

It's showtime for legendary band Deaf School at the Everyman this weekend. Matt Finnegan reviews the first night

Published on September 18th 2009.


Second, third, fourth coming?

THE Lines, as Mr Average would sing, are etched deeper in the faces.

The hair is grey, the jowels sag, the paunches covered by baggy shirts.

And that’s just the audience at the Everyman for the homecoming of Liverpool’s 70s heroes, Deaf School.

Never thrash and slash, the intricacies of Deaf School’s dense musical arrangements, with their gear shifts, key changes and outright strangeness, coupled with Steve Allen’s extraordinary lyrical excellence, found a perfect showcase in the Everyman setting

What of the band? Have they stood the test of time, thirty years on?

The stage was set on Thursday night for the first of four sold-out gigs, promisingly trailed as ‘cabaret performances’ by our returning local heroes.

Blood red bordello curtains framed the theatre’s famous stage. A catwalk jutting out into the audience was surrounded by a dozen front-row tables and chairs, each sporting a tasteful vase and lone flower. It could have been a single, white, orchid. Ah yes - Deaf School, the stylishly anarchic art-pop band, ever the theatrical showmen.

At a side table, almost hidden amongst the audience, Eric Shark, sporting a fetching Fedora, sat alone with only a microphone for company.

Ian Ritchie’s superb sax punctured the audience’s excited anticipation as the frail Shark, awaiting a lung transplant, murmured the opening words to the atmospheric scene-setter, ‘Last Night’. The Everyman could, indeed, have been transformed into a nice little place in the Latin Quarter.

So far, so very good.

With split-second timing, the blonde-cropped Betty Bright, (wearing ridiculously huge sunglasses, a black and white dress styled like a pianoforte, and what appeared to be black rubber leggings), sashayed superbly into place alongside frontman Enrico Cadillac for ‘Get Set, Ready Go’.

And they were off.

What followed was a unique and truly memorable performance by a band who clearly meant more to most of their Liverpool audience than The Beatles ever did, or would.

Vocally, age may have caught up with them - the range is restricted - but, hey, these things happen to us all. And boy, can they put on a show. And, unlike their previous post-punk, overly riotous performances in their home city, this really was a show that could be savoured.

Never thrash and slash, the intricacies of Deaf School’s dense musical arrangements, with their gear shifts, key changes and outright strangeness, coupled with Steve Allen’s extraordinary lyrical excellence, found a perfect showcase in the Everyman setting. Allen’s alter ego, Enrico, commanded centre stage - alternatively as spiv, maestro and tragic victim - as artfully as any Shakespearian. Age cannot wither him, nor custom stale his infinite variety.

And behind the Cadillac, Clive Langer’s searing guitar breaks drove home Deaf School’s entirely justified claim to be the best band that never quite made it. The crowd-pleasers were there in abundance: ‘Where’s the Weekend?’, ‘Nearly Moonlit Night Motel’, ‘Darling’ (Mr Average, wearing a suitably suburban M&S outfit and excelling as always), ‘Taxi’, ‘Second Honeymoon’, the pulsating ‘Capaldi’s Cafe’( interspersed with an all-too-short reel from the cracking ‘Snapshots’) and the plaintive rocker, ‘I Wanna Be Your Boy’.

There was one new song: an elegiac farewell to a former love, ‘Goodbye To All That’, where Enrico beautifully spliced into his bittersweet regret, the line from ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ “Life, goes on, day after day”. So heartfelt was the delivery, that some in the audience were left wondering if this was also his final farewell as a songsmith.

On this standout song (and others), Deaf School were ably supported by a four piece string quartet and the Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie, making a guest appearance on a suitably neon-lit guitar.

Predictably, ‘What A Way To End It All,’ got the previously largely sedentary, but enormously attentive, audience to its feet, (thankfully well out of sight of any embarrassed kids). To be rewarded with a blistering ‘Shake Some Action’ and a slightly faltering ‘Final Act’, from a not surprisingly voice-torn Ms Bright.

But what a great show. And what a great band.

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Ay!Carmela!September 18th 2009.

I'll be at the Everyman tonight. You'll recognise me by my air of studied nonchalance, wondering how I ended up with all these old people.

Hurl23September 18th 2009.

That Suggs?

Ay!Carmela!September 18th 2009.

Enjoyed the Hope St. show, despite experiencing the worst (non)service I've ever seen in a pub. Well done to the Blackburne! Four deep at the bar, two bar staff, no eye contact, no talking and a seemingly random customer selection.After 15 minutes, when they appeared to have served four pints, I gave up.

EditorialSeptember 18th 2009.

That's right Ay! and we'll be there!

Ay!Carmela!September 18th 2009.

You can see them for free at the Hope St. Feast, 4pm, Sunday.

ANDYSeptember 18th 2009.

"...a band who clearly meant more to most of their Liverpool audience than The Beatles ever did, or would".Er, Deaf School were/are Fab. But bigger than The Beatles in their home city?? Outrageous! I call on everyone to burn their scratchy old vinyl copies of 2nd Honeymoon

Biker Hairy GeorgeSeptember 18th 2009.

Twenty one years ago Enrico did Blue Velvet as a one off. A showstopper. If you can do it for her, you can do it for me. See you at 4pm on Sunday, and i don't want no excuses

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