I didn't know what to expect, and to be honest, a quick listen to the back catalogue had made me apprehensive. I'll always love Infected but Mind Bomb onwards made me lose interest, and despite discovering that I still know most of the lyrics to Heartlands and This is the Day, I hadn’t listened to The The for years. (That Hank Williams cover album was jist naw!) A “Please don’t watch us through your phones” announcement was gratefully received by the crowd, but reinforced my trepidation about the possible awfulness of what was to come- those fears were totally unfounded.
Tonight's performance had ditched the now dated 80s sequencer sounds of early songs and replaced them with more edgy jangly guitars and was all the better for it. The live drumming of Earl Harvin definitely added to the quality of the tracks. The lighting was also stripped back with the band lit from below letting shadows form the back drop, which made the gig seem strangely intimate despite the Barras being packed with a sell out crowd. There was no sell out with the music being performed though (yes, even a dodgy Hank Williams cover was included in the set).
The lyrics of a lot of the songs written in the 80s still resonate and sound relevant & that's kind of depressing, but then kind of depressing pop tunes are the stuff The The is made of. It's still the mellow voice of a 50s crooner singing dark and unexpectedly twisted lyrics over incongruously gentle pop music.
I can remember a review of The The in the 80s describing Matt Johnson as "the world's youngest grumpy old man" or something similar; he's certainly grown into his lyrics. Given the enthusiasm of the audience joining in with “My life is halfway through, and I still haven't done, what I'm here to do,” in the later and lesser known track Soul Catcher, so have the rest of us.