Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 23 May 2006
God exists. He's 50, looks like Andy Townsend, and is from Glasgow.
The CLUAS Verdict? 10 out of 10
When Paul Buchanan is the subject of a review, it's best to call up The Blue Nile template that comes free with all good word processing packages. The opening paragraphs set the scene, and it's here that you'll find all the stuff you've read a hundred times before, about how Buchanan's band The Blue Nile released their first album in 1985, and since then, have released an average of one song every twelve months, over three subsequent, heartbreakingly beautiful records. Next comes the bit that says that their music is revered by those who hear it, yet ignored by most. We'll mention that this is at best a shame and at worst criminal. Rosanna Arquette's name will occasionally crop up.
Even if you're not a believer, you will at this point realise that, for those people to whom his music speaks, Buchanan is something of a treasure. For this, his first proper UK tour in about a hundred years, the sense of expectation was high and, among his devoted, there was a feeling that an anti climactic outcome was inevitable, even in the unlikely event of him emerging on the back of a Harley and putting on a show that involved flamethrowers, dancing girls, sex dwarfs and hurley carrying dominatrixes.
Of course none of this happens, and predictably, Buchanan shuffles on almost apologetically, with head down and tugging nervously at the back of his neck to deliver one of the best five gigs of my (looooong) gig going career.
"I Would Never" is perhaps an odd one with which to start but, by the time Paul sings, "I have raised a precious child to be a man" with that perfect voice of his that seems always to dangle by its fingertips on the exquisite edge of breaking down completely, the chin wobbling has started in earnest. Sensibly jumpered men with grey hair, pot bellies, a child or children in the care of a babysitter and eyes filled with tears look on blissfully, their smiling expressions a mixture of affection and awe. But mostly affection - I have never seen an audience express its love for a performer so unashamedly. "We love you Paul" is the night's rallying cry.
After a glorious "Happiness" from "Peace at Last", something extraordinary happens. Not for the gentle Buchanan a shouted "WAN TOO TREE FAW", even if the music demanded it. He turns his back to the audience, and with a whispered "Thank You" to his band while bowing ever so slightly in their direction we are on our way, and the wonderfully downbeat "Over The Hillside" begins.
The struggles of the ordinary Joe, trapped in a job which crushes him, but pays the bills, is a recurring theme for Buchanan. "Working, night and day, I try to get ahead. But I don't get ahead this way" he sings, his voice soaring above the lush keyboards and understated drums, cries of "Tomorrow I will be there" reverberating around the room, dislodging any spiders that live in the uppermost recesses of the grand old Liverpool Phil.
For what remains of the two hours he spends with us, we are treated to luscious slices from one of the most remarkable back catalogues in popular music. A starkly beautiful "Walk across the Rooftops", an edgy "Heatwave" an almost funkadelic "Tinseltown" a bare and gorgeous "Easter Parade" and a spellbinding "Saturday Night" have the crowd in raptures. Buchanan turns down several offers of sexual intercourse from audience members of all genders, flashing a rake thin stomach at us in an effort to ward off the advances. "I don't look good naked".
He encores, as befits his status as Glasgow's Sinatra, with "Strangers in the Night". Buchanan, somehow looking exactly the same as we remember him, yet more uncannily like Andy Townsend than ever before, even manages to endow the shooby-dooby-doos with greatness. And then he's off, but only after shaking hands with almost everyone in the room. One of the greats. One of the great nights. God Bless you Kid
Check out the CLUAS review of the Blue Nile album 'High'