So, the last night of the tour. It’s a bit of a schlepp from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and the venue is right on the north end of the city, meaning a frustrating trip round the most pointless ring road in the UK which meant I was late for the interview with Tim I’d scheduled (coming soon somewhere). The venue looked pretty uninspiring like a massive aircraft hanger and later, as we approached in the rain, it looked as if this could be trouble, lots of people seemingly worse for wear and chanting some of the hits rather badly and wrongly. But how wrong Aberdeen was to prove me to be.
The venue was still an aircraft hanger, but the sound was absolutely superb, probably the best on the tour so far. The extra space in the hall allowed the full effect of the lights to be seen and they were simply astonishing from start to finish. There’s a section of Bubbles, just after when the song moves up in pace, where it’s bathed in yellow, red and green light that is almost idyllic. Strobes and bright white light punctuate the set, but they’re not overused. And the crowd? Well, a few flying pints and the odd crafty cigarette apart, they’re great, they dance, they singalong and they don’t talk through the new songs and there’s not a million mobile phones in the air at every opportunity.
For the last night, the set is mixed up a bit. Top Of The World takes over use of the mirrorball duties from Of Monsters And Heroes And Men, which had suffered most from revelations that would save the world and discussions about dinner and Hollyoaks that suddenly struck people in the middle of the song the previous night. It’s eerie in the big hall, but stuns the crowd into silence. Born Of Frustration though has the crowd up singing, dancing, hollering and the atmosphere is fantastic. Tim asks the crowd to stop throwing beer on stage as it could stop his dancing and damage the electrics, before introducing a “most requested obscure song”. It’s not Island Swing, Folklore or Withdrawn, but Pleased To Meet You stalwart Senorita. Tonight, it sounds just like the single I thought it should have been at the time.
Oh My Heart and Boom Boom just grow in the bigger arena. There’s pockets of dancing around the arena, hands being punched in the air and those that aren’t are listening, cheering at the end of the songs and giving the band the attention and respect they deserve. People actually start dancing as well.
Ring The Bells is absolutely massive. Tim’s dancing is as free and frenetic as it’s been on the whole tour. He comments how the crowd has turned a soulless shed into something throbbing with life and more beautiful.
Waterfall and Bubbles get the same respect from the crowd. Both, as with all the Hey Ma material tonight, sound as vital to James as anything in their back catalogue. It’ll be sad to see some of these fall by the wayside in the winter for the more hit-laden arena shows, but there will be very difficult decisions to be made on which ones stay and which ones go. Getting Away With It is greeted with cheers and mass arm-waving and becomes a communal singalong.
72 returns to the set for tonight, having been dropped earlier in the tour. The lights accompanying it are stunning and it sounds great, but doesn’t quite reach the heights of most of the other Hey Ma material. It was certainly good to hear it again though.
I Wanna Go Home, yet again, was simply mindblowing. It risks encouraging people to lose interest and talk with its quiet opening, but the minute Dave’s drums kick in, people are hooked. The vocal interplay between Tim and Andy works perfectly and then the band demonstrate why they have no peers at songs like these as Tim stalks the stage, pausing to scream the title into the microphone as the lights flash behind him. Stunning stuff.
Out To Get You gets as big a cheer as anything else tonight. There’s a wonderfully touching moment when Tim sings inches from Saul’s face. The crowd holler back the “is you” backing vocals and a thousand pairs of arms are held aloft. Not bad for a b-side to a number 38 single that nearly got lost.
Upside gets punctuated by Tim holding the crowd before the last chorus to try and get the venue silent. This has worked well on previous nights, but didn’t tonight, and the song, which was sounding superb up to this point, kind of gets lost, before the band kick back in and it soars again at the end.
Whiteboy is a mad mad three minutes of fun, leading into the final section of the set. Tim ventures out close to the crowd for She’s A Star, which sounds as uplifting and revelatory as it ever has done. Sound is so good it gets difficult to keep describing it each and every night so I won’t try for the thirteenth time. Tomorrow is a perfect set-closer, the crowd are eating out of the band’s hands by this point, dancing, singing along and generally having the best time Aberdeen has had since Fergie lead them to break the Old Firm monopoly. There’s a comedy moment where the sound cuts out temporarily and Tim turns to the crowd and makes a face.
The encore starts with a rough, ramshackle version of Come Home. The longer in the tour it’s got, the more close to collapse it sounds, and the better it sounds. Hey Ma, inspired by the Black Watch theatre show as Tim tells us, follows the trend of being a dark celebration and the lights just add to the contradiction between subject matter and the song.
Sometimes is amusing. The crowd sing along, but don’t quite catch taking over the refrain as has happened on previous nights. To their credit, the band don’t try to push it, but start up Laid, which brings the night, and the tour, to a rather triumphant close. I’ve told people I’d be happy not to hear Laid again live, but tonight it just made perfect sense as three thousand people dance, sing and try to recreate Tim’s falsetto in union.
A great close to a wonderful tour. The Aberdeen crowd was possibly the best on the tour so far, and the performance also one of the strongest. A soulless venue was transformed into something magical for a couple of hours. It feels a bit empty this morning with the knowledge that we won’t be able to do all this again for seven months.