A mockney knees-up with Chiswick's finest
Baxter Dury - Live At XOYO, London

"Hello my people, my little sausages!" yawps Baxter Dury, as he makes his way from the back of the stage of the sold out XOYO. It's the band's first gig back in London following a European tour and Baxter is in a buoyant mood. And why wouldn't he be? Following a six-year hiatus, Dury has returned with a critically acclaimed album in 'Happy Soup', sold-out tours and a support slot with Paul Weller next month.

The band, fittingly suited and booted (and glitzed up in the case of backing vocalist, Madeleine Hart) kick-off with 'Francesca's Party', one of the few tunes played off 2005's 'Floor Show'. While both his first two albums highlight Baxter's undoubted talent, 'Happy Soup' sees songs swimming in tales of the everyday man which you might not expect from an individual raised amidst the excesses of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll (see what I did there?). This is no more evident in 'Isabel', a story of an ill-advised one-night stand supported by a suitably seedy synth bassline. This is quickly followed up by the album's other single 'Claire' by which point the majority of the audience are bopping along to the dreamy backing vocals of Hart juxtaposed with Baxter's dry, half-spoken delivery.

His deadpan witticisms and vocal similarities naturally lead to comparisons with his father and while they perhaps don't rock as hard as the Blockheads, the songs are filled with the same astute observations and idiosyncrasies that make them instantly loveable. Dury, either oblivious or acquiescing to the undoubted comparison, appears to be comfortable and ready to embrace these paternal gifts. His onstage banter, like his songs, is funny and compelling and tonight include dubious Mark Twain citations, stories of Miles Davis performances and toasts to the capital which are certainly enough to hold the audience.

Indeed, after a rather public and introductory “team talk” the band return with 'Afternoon', a hapless tale of young love and alcohol that with the saxophone imitated keyboard hook take you back to your own unspent summers. By this time the band are really enjoying themselves, and the ties are loosened for a knees-up rendition of 'Trellic' which sees audience members locked in arms belting out the songs chorus: "All I know, is we're together now, together now!" The set is not without its darker moments however, as the evening flitters between the narratives of the semi-autobiographical stories told in Dury's songs. Fan favourite, 'Cocaine Man' fits this bill and feels almost Dickensian as the story floats behind the repetitive bassline and shadowy synths. The band closes up with more songs from 'Happy Soup' including 'The Sun' and 'Brixton' or, more precisely, 'Hotel in Brixton' as Dury tells the audience with a nod and a wink.

The hour set is tight with no thrills or pretention and it makes you wonder whether Dury, with a successful album under his arm, is ready to step out of the breach from London cult-hero to national treasure.

Words by Andrew Darby
Photo by Olivia Ford

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