Buoyed up on rave reviews for their latest album, Stay True, Danny & the Champions of the World (from here on in, the Champs) blew into Glasgow for an exhilarating display of country, rock and soul all wrapped up in the diminutive figure of Danny George Wilson and his blistering band. A six piece outfit this time around (including pedal steel and sax) the Champs tore through their set in fine style. While they retained the rootsy raucousness that was apparent on their previous release, Hearts & Arrow, stretching out on several numbers especially towards the end, the heart of the matter was contained in the soul sounds they captured on Stay True. Danny has surely been listening to Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey as he captured Morrison’s old Caledonia soul vibe down to a T but throughout the show the band conjured up the spirits of Muscle Shoals and Detroit while Wilson almost preached to the audience in the manner of soul greats such as Solomon Burke and Sam Cooke.
They opened with the autobiographical tale (Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket that kicks off Stay True and immediately the country rock shuffle of the band caressed by the warm pedal steel licks and Danny’s emotive voice showed that we were in for a treat. Cold Cold World followed in a similar vein with the sax more prominent and if anything it upped the ante sounding as it did like an old Brill Building hit with a tremendous chorus. Danny then crossed over into Motown territory for Let’s Grab This with Both Hands, a song that Smokey Robinson would kill for and one which the band nailed with the pedal steel snaking along throughout and the rhythm section solid and tight. All that was missing were the matching suits and choreography. Having introduced the audience to the vibe of the new album the band then grabbed them by the scruff of the neck with a vigorous rendition of the epic Colonel and the King with Paul Lush’s fluid guitar eventually building up into a Crazy Horse type meltfest that was , well, awesome. Darling Won’t You Come In From The Cold allowed a brief respite with its mixture of Blood On The Tracks era Dylan and Morrison’s stoned blissful and bluesy soul before Henry The Van allowed the audience their first opportunity to join in the chorus. By now the audience had closed in, there was dancing for the rest of the set and truth be told this writer was up there losing the ability to capture the rest of the set list although Restless Feet did feature somewhere in there. . It was hot and the band made it hotter before they eventually stumbled off. A great show and one that showcased how fine the new album is as well as how fine an outfit the current Champs are.
Support for the Champs on the night was provided by two local acts. Jim Dead produced a fine set of his parched cinematic meditations conjuring up a landscape of grim faced existential heroes battling against fate. Renditions of Steady Us, Gold and Silver, Head Full of Booze and the brooding Stealing A Mile were grim and packed full of dread while a new song, Keep Me In Mind bodes well for the future as Dead drew a picture of another outsider who awakes to the sound of birds singing his favourite hymn. Next up were Chris Devotion & The Expectations, billed as an acoustic set but they lied. Devotion, looking somewhat like John Grant in a suit ambled on to deliver Don’t Worry, We Can Still Be Friends all on his ownsome before his guitarist joined him for the next song. Pretty soon bass and drums followed for an exhilarating power pop/rock/country experience as they blasted through a set that reeked of The Lemonheads, The Ramones and the Replacements with some sixties Who thrown in for good measure. Throwing in a fine version of Tonight The Bottle let Me Down and an excellent hokey I Ain’t Got No Home (perhaps to please the country fans although it eventually turned into a fantastic thrash). A whirlwind performance and a band to watch out for.