It seemed everyone in Manchester’s Gorilla was excited to see how Baxter Dury’s latest album Prince of Tears, regarded by many as one of the best albums of 2017, would translate during live performance. While the sea of bald heads in the crowd pointed to the fact that part of Dury’s legacy owes somewhat to his father, there is undoubtedly a sense of youthfulness to the way Baxter approaches both music and, it seems, life. However, now into his 5th album, it appears that his cult status transcends age, and Dury has built a particularly loyal fan base since the release of his first record Len Parrot’s Memorial Lift in 2002.
In the now familiar suit-and-tie combo appearing in various press releases for the new record, Dury began the show bouncing around the stage, cradling a Corona beer and warming the crowd up with jokes and some older material. Forty-six years old now, it was clear from the outset that he had maintained his edgy rock n’ roll persona.
In the first killer track of the evening, ‘Listen’, the guitar riff met with the quickening bob of the crowd in front, before Dury belted out the chorus with his female accompaniment (long-term collaborator Madelaine Hart): “And the white coats are coming for the clever ones, hide your books…” The lively start to the performance continued into ‘Picnic on the Edge’, guitar licks wailing neatly between verses. An incredibly cool rendition of ‘Porcelain’ quickly followed, the harsh lyrics cutting through the crowd like frost through a forest.
A proud Londoner, Dury used a brief interlude to jostle with the crowd teasingly: “Manchester… Enough said really!” After removing his jacket and tie there was an explosive rendition of ‘Letter Bomb’, sounding significantly better than the album version in the confined, and increasingly hot venue. The show then took a different turn with ‘Oi’, a heartfelt and nostalgic message to a scary childhood friend. The highlight of the night, however, was the masterful ‘Miami’ and its sublime bass line. It was slick, smooth and silver-tongued, Dury crooning the renowned second verse opener: “I’m the sausage man!”
The gig was impressive. With a rich back catalogue to rely on, as well as the new tunes, the show made for exciting listening. There was interesting discrepancy from the album versions of the songs, with Dury finishing many of the live tracks in a hazy electronic storm from behind the keyboard. One woman loved it so much she proceeded to get up on stage at the end and land a large kiss on Dury’s cheek, before a long – and slightly awkward – hug. Dury remained humorous to the last, ironically smiling to the crowd from behind her shoulder.