I feel like somewhat a fraud writing this review. Fan-wise that is. You see, the song I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) was such an integral part of childhood and listening to that song in my sister’s bedroom in our house in Sidney, BC when I was five is one of my earliest memories. And yet, “Sunshine on Leith” is the only “The Proclaimers” album I own. It’s the only I’ve ever listened to. I don’t really know any of their songs not on that album. Granted, 90% of the crowd at the PNE on Wednesday night is probably in the same boat as me (though I did end up behind some dancing super fans). I suppose that’s what happens when a band is perceived as a one hit wonder.
Craig and Charlie Reid are more than one-trick ponies. Not only is the entire “Sunshine on Leith’ album amazing, but they have seven other albums filled with very good material. Speaking of “Sunshine on Leith” it is also the name of a movie musical coming out which was based on a stage play that featured some of the brothers’ greatest hits. During its various productions in Scotland and the U.K. over the past seven years, it has starred a variety of well-known British and Scottish actors, including “Lord of the Rings” and “Master & Commander” star Billy Boyd. In addition to being a handsome Scottish brogue, Boyd is also lead singer of the band Beecake. The movie version stars faces relatively unknown to North American audiences. The most recognizable face is probably Freya Mavor from Series 5 and 6 of Skins – she was Mini. In the film, she plays Liz, and in real life can sing (she’s a mezzo soprano) and play piano. Judging by the trailer, it is more along the lines of “Were the World Mine” than “Rent”. It premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival at the beginning of September.
If that weren’t enough, the brothers also have a best of compilation coming out within the next couple of months. It is a double album, featuring 30 songs from their first 25 years as a group. For them it was quite easy to put together. Craig states that there were eight or ten songs that had to be on there (such as I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), I’m On My Way and Sunshine on Leith) and that a discussion arose around only one or two songs. The album should be out in October.
Beyond music, the brothers are heavily are invested in Scottish politics and are currently supporting a motion for Scotland’s independence, a movement that seems to gaining some ground over there. While Craig states they are not rabid nationalists, both him and Charlie feel that Scotland (and to an extent England and Wales) would all do better as independent nations. The vote is scheduled for next year. According to Craig, the ‘no’ side currently has the lead. Not surprisingly, given that are members of the Scottish Socialist Party, they are both opposed to the death penalty, and helped free a scotsman – Kenny Richey – from Death Row in Ohio. They also played a show with friend Billy Bragg in support of Reprieve, a charity that seeks to the end the death penalty. Other charities supported by the brothers include The Lighthouse Foundation, which helps addiction victims, AICR (cancer research), Drake Music Scotland (help disabled people through music) and 500 miles (amputees or disabled people in Africa). Finally, the brothers lend their support to Hibernian FC Football Club, where “Sunshine on Leith” has become a club anthem.
The concert itself was great. They played their first well-known track, I’m On My Way, about a quarter of the Way through the show. (I’m On My Way was revived when it appeared in the first Shrek movie). Other highlights included “Cap in Hand”, which is one of their most political songs, “Sean”, “Sunshine on Leith”, “Let’s Get Married” “Dance With Me” and “Letter to America”. Oh yeah, and they ended their set with the song that the whole world knows. Now both 51 years old, father time has been kind to the twins and they still know how to entertain. And some of the lyrics are killer. While not technical virtuosos, Charlie is no slouch on the guitar. The backing band was outstanding as well. I admired the fact that the show was relatively low-key and simple. Now pyrotechnics, no crazy backdrop, no insane. Just six musicians rocking out the Vancouver faithful.
As for why I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) struck a chord with the entire globe, Craig does not know. In fact, in his opinion, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) is not even their best song. On that album. According to him, it’s a relatively simple song in both chord structure and lyrical content. His personal favourite is ‘Sunshine on Leith’. It’s a love story he says; an ode to their home town and is a spiritual song. I quite like it myself.
Sunshine on Leith opens September 6th at TIFF. Watch the trailer here:
The Proclaimers’ most recent album, ‘Like Comedy’ was released last year. Their best of double album is due out in October.
RIYL: Billy Bragg, Stornoway, Kieran Strange