Into Live Music Review: Baxter Dury
Date: 15 October 2023
“What the actual fuck?”
Fifteen minutes or so into this gig that was the thought which kept birling round my head. I’m up in the balcony looking down at Baxter Dury and his three-piece band, but my eyes don’t move much from the artiste, the executant, the fuckin’ agent provocateur who has drawn me in, placed me in a trance and is putting on a performance which is both captivating and dazzling. Dury has undoubted charm, but he also has the tunes to back it up and a great band allowing him to do what the hell he is doing.
From the opening So Much Money (from new album I Thought I Was Better Than You) it was difficult to see how he could keep up the frantic pace. An absolute ball of energy, rarely standing still and often pulling martial arts poses mid-song, Dury threatened to pull his suit jacket off before a shrug of the shoulders, a move across the stage and a gesture to the crowd to up the volume, to participate. It’s not sustainable, you’d think. Well think again. Anyway, after that initial fifteen minutes or so, the suit jacket did come off and that was about the only concession Dury made all night. By this point his light grey shirt had metamorphosed into a dark charcoal colour, saturated in sweat. Early single, Isabel, really showcased the talents of keyboard/vocalist Madeline Hart who played a significant part in proceedings, not only sharing vocal duties throughout the gig but delivering synth incursions which elevated a number of the tracks.
The rhythm section were more nuanced, in the background and most definitely not in the limelight, they remained solid as the proverbial rock and were the glue that left Hart and Dury the space in which to weave their magic. Indeed, I’d mark them down as water-carriers, similar to what Eric Cantona once said of Didier Deschamps. Now, when that phrase was used back in the 1990’s it was completely misconstrued as having a dig, but it wasn’t. It was about having solidity, a backbone and platform to work from, and that was exactly what the rhythm section provided here. Without them, the creative impulses of Hart and the mercurial talent of Dury wouldn’t have shone as brightly.
Beyond the live spectacle, Dury’s lyrics are socially observational, providing the listener with much to mull over. Leon referenced the condemnation of being the son of a well-known musician to Aylesbury Boy and the posh school kids with their obvious disregard for those perceived to be of a lower class and/or bohemians.
Before we knew it, an hour had past and the band left the stage momentarily before returning to perform a five-song encore, starting with a slinky cool Cocaine Man which oozed a hip-swiveling vibe. An effortless Celebrate Me, swiftly followed, with Hart’s vocal again a highlight. When recent single Baxter (These Are My Friends) morphed into a house tune, the crowd raved and Dury urged them on, rinsing every ounce of effort out of himself and us. It was a joyous moment for sure.
And that was it, the show was over. As I left the QMU, making my way home I had the same thought going over and over in my head and it was, “What the actual fuck?” It’s not often I get that inner reaction at a gig but when I do, I know it’s because I’ve just witnessed something different, something special, something that will last in the memory banks for a long, long time to come.
For more on Baxter Dury, head to the official website here.