Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow: April 3rd, 2000

royal-concert-hallSet Listing:

01. I Remember That
02. Bonny
03. The Sound of Crying
04. Machine Gun Ibiza
05. Andromeda Heights
06. We Let the Stars Go
07. Life’s a Miracle
08. If You Don’t Love Me
09. Jordan: The Comeback
10. Faron Young
11. Couldn’t Bear to be Special
12. Dragons
13. Appetite
14. A Life of Surprises
15. Electric Guitars
16. Cars and Girls
17. Cruel
18. I’m a Troubled Man
19. Carnival 2000
20. Moving the River
21. Hey Manhattan
22. Lions in my Own Garden (Exit Someone)
23. Swans
24. One of the Broken
25. When Love Breaks Down
26. Goodbye Lucille #1
27. Cowboy Dreams
28. Looking for Atlantis
29. Where the Heart is
30. Prisoner of the Past

A recording of this concert exists, good to excellent crowd recording.

FOR those of us who own far too many bad eighties pop records for their own good, the re-emergence of one-time favourites whose back catalogues are collecting dust in parental attics, is usually fraught with trepidation. Indeed, the era described by Paddy McAloon as the ”Filofax years” was not a good time to be forming a musical taste, given the abundance of over produced, under talented groups. Prefab Sprout’s unexpected re-appearance could do much to damage an almost untarnished reputation built up between 1985 and 1990, when they released their masterpiece double-album, Jordan: The Comeback. Since then there has been one album, two best-of compilations, virtually no concerts, and varying rumours of writer’s blocks, unrecorded albums, and general lack of productivity. Two sets which cover more than 30 songs and feature only one bona-fide new composition (I’m A Troubled Man) also raises legitimate questions as to the point of the whole exercise when so little has changed. Apart from the absence of Wendy Smith (maternity leave) and the, frankly, ludicrous facial hair sported by McAloon, all the songs are performed note-perfectly, and only A Few Don’t Love Me has been re-arranged in any way. It soon becomes obvious, however, that no other reasons than the quality of the songs, the beauty of McAloon’s voice, and the tight jazz-like arrangements, where less is most definitely more, are required to justify a Prefab Sprout tour in 2000. Unlike many of their contemporaries, their back catalogue is both peerless and timeless. Only rarely (A Prisoner of the Past, Life of Surprises) does it resemble a rock concert, this being more of a recital to the converted, but McAloon’s true worth lies in his ability to be as out of his time now as he was in 1985.” John Williamson, Scottish Daily Herald April 4th 2000

“What happened to them, the Roddy Frames and the Green Gartsides? The pale, thoughtful, eloquent young men who soundtracked left-leaning dinner parties in the 1980s seem to have all but died out.

“Prefab Sprout mainman Paddy MacAloon’s audacious response to his own fall from fashion takes the form of a vast, bushy, defiantly uncool Old Testament beard. Gone is the bony aesthete of yore; before us stands a creature who seems equal parts cave-dweller and jovial uncle.

“MacAloon cheerfully notes that earlier in the day a group of fans who had travelled all the way from Chicago failed to recognise him. By and large, however, his transformation doesn’t faze the faithful. They respond joyously to a set that draws on all stages of the Sprout’s erratic career.

“Strip away the nostalgia, though, and the band’s oeuvre looks threadbare. MacAloon has a lovely voice but the vast, echoey drums and chiming guitars sound hopelessly dated. His lyrics, too, are ill- equipped to stand the test of time, and for every heartstopping turn of phrase there’s a hefty dose of lumpen sentimentality. The Sound Of Crying which MacAloon describes as his “post-Gulf War song”, is a case in point. The singer even addresses God: “If you’re listening up there/You could consider this a prayer.” Let’s face it, the big feller has remained indifferent to far more eloquent requests, and the chorus – “Once more the sound of crying/Is number one across the world” – sounds less like a protest song than a parody of a charity appeal record.

“Then there’s Andromeda Heights which rejects the rock ‘n’ roll mythology that used to intrigue MacAloon in favour of a glorification of pipe-and-slippers domesticity: “Mortar will crumble with age and neglect/We’re building a house upon love and respect.” Perhaps he could have got a job penning verses for Hallmark if he hadn’t been too busy writing songs for Jimmy Nail. A few of these are aired, including Dragons a schmaltzy warble about defending one’s lady love against an onslaught of beasts, and Cowboy Dreams a schmaltzy warble about defending one’s lady love against an onslaught of Red Indians. Finally there’s Where The Heart Is – the theme song to an ITV drama serial, and every bit as horrific as that implies.

“Surely even the most besotted fan would concede that any edge Prefab Sprout once had has deserted them. In the main part they are churning out the kind of sleek, smug soul music that should have been buried along with leather ties, wine bars and perms.”

Hannah McGill, Sunday Herald

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