In the Quays Theatre, nestled in the rear of Salford’s architecturally striking Lowry Centre, a seated audience prepares for Dundee’s RICKY ROSS. There’s a palpable sense of intrigue among the patrons as they wait for the DEACON BLUE frontman’s “Untold Stories” show, a gig which promises to shed light on Ross’ songwriting inspirations and processes for both his solo and band work.
The venue is an interesting one: before the show, its bright red metal and vertical sides make for an odd mix of intimacy and sterility. However, once the lights go down and Ross warms the stage, a beautifully inviting intimacy builds.
Finding fame with Deacon Blue in the late 80s before embarking on his own solo project, Ross has built himself a dedicated set of fans. Most of the audience tonight have no doubt been following his career since the band hit the top of the charts, so they’re excited to hear the older songs, but also show great appreciation for his solo work.
Presenting the show in three segments – two guitar-based sections sandwiching a session on the piano – Ross manages to select a healthy mix of songs from his career. Starting with a clutch of tracks from his new solo album “Trouble Came Looking,” aided by Gregor Philp on guitar, Ross creates an easy, laid-back atmosphere from the off. A highlight from the opening third being “A Strange and Foreign Land,” a touching tribute to the 23 Chinese victims of the Cockle-picking tragedy just up the road in Morecambe Bay back in 2004.
Ross makes for an adept pianist, demonstrated over the next six songs. The arrangements are well-composed and given a boost by the venue’s crystal clear acoustics. The crowd massively appreciates the Deacon Blue classic “Raintown” which gets the biggest reaction of the evening.
For a moment, the prospect of singing along to “The Germans are Out Today” threatens the intimate atmosphere, but once embraced by the audience this proves to be an excellent addition. The group singing fills the venue and provides another highlight.
By the end, the “Untold Stories” premise of the show is the only thing that feels slightly unfulfilled. While Ross demonstrates a warm wit and charm between songs, frequently joking with the crowd, the in-depth analysis of the tracks I was expecting didn’t materialise. However, Ross does build a strong, involved atmosphere and is careful to provide a brief context for the songs, which seems an acceptable trade-off.
Finishing with another round on guitar, broken up by an encore, Ross leaves the crowd well and truly satisfied at the close. Beaming smiles playing across many faces on the way out, and those that wish to are given the chance to meet the man himself – another sign of Ross’ appreciation of his fans, and a fitting end to the night.