Interview: Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross

We speak to Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross ahead of their gig at Dubai’s Irish Village

Dubai certainly loves a musical revival. Last year we saw ’90s legend Apache Indian take to the stage at The Music Room, while ’80s British pop star Kim Wilde gave us an acoustic performance of ‘Kids in America’ at Zero Gravity’s Saturday Drift session. But when it comes to a real trip down memory lane, The Irish Village really brings it home. From Sinéad O’Connor’s powerful ballads (minus ‘Nothing Compares’) to The Human League’s lively, punchy performance of ‘Don’t You Want Me’, the Irish spot just keeps on giving. Next on the agenda is a one-night gig from popular ’80s Scottish pop band Deacon Blue, on Thursday April 16.

The band’s frontman, Ricky Ross, is an advocate of the ’80s revival. ‘We made a connection in the early days. People either saw us or the songs became part of their story,’ he says. ‘I think there is always something really magical about that, when your songs are hooked into people. It’s a slightly homesick thing as well, I think – expats just want a little taste of home.’

Formed in Glasgow in 1985, the band have seen various changes to the line-up over their 30-year history. Current members are husband and wife Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh, alongside James Prime, Dougie Vipond, Gregor Philip and Lewis Gordon.

Rewind to May 1987 and the band were on a high when their debut album Raintown peaked at number 14 on the UK album chart. Hit singles included ‘Dignity’, ‘Loaded’ and ‘Chocolate Girl’.

‘Making that first record is still the highlight for me,’ Ross says. ‘Everything has been possible because of that. The way we did it, the kind of atmosphere that was on that record, was really special and none of us will ever forget that. We always think “Is this as good as that was?” And if it is then it’s great. Being together and being creative, that’s the best thing you can do as a band.’ Further success followed with their second studio album, When the World Knows Your Name, in 1989. The record was the band’s biggest selling album, reaching number 1 in the UK album chart and producing five UK top 30 hits including ‘Real Gone Kid’ and ‘Wages Day’.

Like most bands, however, the shelf life of the group didn’t last beyond seven years, and they split in 1994 to pursue other projects. But, for Ross, this was a blessing in disguise. ‘I think it was for the best, doing different things and seeing different aspects of whatever music we were into. It made everyone realise that we are actually a pretty good band and musicians. We had something really special and it’s nice to treasure that. I certainly cling on to that and I want to keep the best bits of what it was.’

The band reunited in 1999 and have been touring ever since, as well as appearing at huge summer festivals such as Glastonbury and T in the Park in the UK. Having released their seventh studio album A New House in September 2014, the band are looking forward to sharing their new material with the Dubai audience and Ross says that playing these new songs is key. ‘We like to give people want they want and try to charm them with one or two new things. I think the key for us is to get our new songs out there.’ But they still play the old ones. And we can’t help but wonder if, after years of singing the same songs and lyrics, they ever get tired of it all. ‘That’s the reason people have asked you to come and do a gig, though,’ says Ross. ‘It’s that moment that people buy into and it’s important to celebrate that together. Every night can be fresh and different.’

With 30 years of big hits to share, it seems fair to say Dubai fans won’t leave feeling blue.
Dhs185. 9pm. April 16. The Irish Village, Garhoud (04 239 5000).

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