Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Music
9 November 2022

The Proclaimers are still Britain’s best male rock singers

At a recent gig in Leicester, the duo were just as much a juggernaut as they have always been.

By Robert Colls

The Proclaimers in Leicester? Do me a favour. How unfashionable can you get? Too old. Too male. Too white. Too twangy. Too folksy. Too similar and, admit it – admit it – too Scottish. Too right, but dead wrong, as it happens. On 4 November, at the city’s De Montfort Hall, they proved they are still the best rock band around.

The boys remain in great voice. Strong and true, not quite pure but, hey, this is rock, 90 solid minutes of it, never missing a beat – even between songs, where there was no fine-tuning of strings, no little speeches, and no “glad to be here… wherever it is”. It was as if they have a pact to see how much passion they can bounce from one side of the stage to the other, Craig Reid on the left, chin up, knees together, his twin, Charlie, on the right, knees apart, shoulders hunched, like Lennon used to stand. Heavier now, they look like their audience. Indeed, their audience (or one half of it) looked so much like them I thought I’d stumbled into some weird glasses-and-T-shirt cult – until I saw myself in the mirror and realised I’d joined it too.

The band was a juggernaut – rolling out the skirling keyboards and thumping bass, the lead guitarist windmilling it like a tiny Pete Townshend in baseball cap while an avenging demon-drummer at the back was busy blurring sticks as if his life depended on it. Even so, it’s the twin voices that do the proclaiming – fast or slow, close harmony or shouts, crescendo or whoop, everyone joining in hypnotic choruses like a great working-class opera lifting the roof off. Their music has always been hard to define, but punk and post-punk are definitely in the mix, along with country and cèilidh, rock ’n’ roll, music hall and anything in between, except jazz or bagpipes.

Then the crowd. Sell-out, of course with no room to move. Immediately recognisable, these are the sort of people who watch Leicester City at the King Power Stadium: white, middle-aged, skilled, still like a drink, still like to bop, still in love with somebody, or something, and still ready to proclaim things of hearth and home, hard work, love and redemption, fun, self-mockery. Fittingly, the Proclaimers’ latest record is titled Dentures Out.

Craig and Charlie are Scottish nationalists and pro-independence, but apart from one corner of a blue saltire peeping out from under an amplifier, there was nothing here, nothing, that this audience could not cheer. Even the spinning waltz “Cap in Hand” – which includes the repeated line “But I can’t understand why we let someone else rule our land” – is something we woefully misgoverned and unheeded English could be singing, and will be singing, if politics goes on as it is. Yet we joined the boys and sung it to the rafters in a hall named after the first man to raise an English parliamentary army in the field.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

“Scottish music duo” doesn’t quite do it. The Proclaimers are the best (and least desperate) of British male rock singers. On they shuffle, no big deal. Off they shuffle, no big deal. Even the warm-up, provided by the excellent John Bramwell (formerly of I Am Kloot), was pushier. With the Proclaimers it’s the songs that count. They sing from the heart and it’s clear that if it was Scotland that first slapped them into life, it’s women who have made them whole: “You saw it, you claimed it, you touched it, you saved it… While I’m worth my room on this Earth, I will be with you…” We came out at the end and bounced around in a great big stupid hug. It wasn’t the drink. It must have been the joy.

What makes me cry? Probably the love songs, but I liked the songs of belonging as well. Everybody knows “Sunshine on Leith” is Scotland’s real national anthem. A man’s a man for a’ that – and I wish we Geordies had two like them.

Content from our partners
What are the green skills of the future?
A global hub for content producers, gaming and entertainment companies in Abu Dhabi
Insurance: finding sustainable growth in stormy markets

[See also: English National Opera is a cultural lifeline – but we have been decimated by cuts]

Topics in this article: , ,

This article appears in the 16 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The state we’re in