LIVE REVIEW: Ian Prowse, Dan Donnelly @ The Peacock, Sunderland (23.02.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Ian Prowse and Nico, by Dawn Storey

I seem to attend too many gigs by musicians whose work deserves to be far better known than it is, and tonight is no exception. Ian Prowse and Dan Donnelly are good friends as well as superb musicians and raconteurs, equally comfortable entertaining their audience with stories between songs as they are when singing, so it’s a pleasure to see them on the same bill.

Donnelly, originally from Belfast but now a long-time adopted Teessider, never disappoints. He delivers endless gems from his back catalogue, plus – due to audience request and the fact he’s known for playing live with them – a couple of Levellers hits. As he’s also played with The Wonder Stuff and The Celtic Social Club (amongst others) he’s later mocked affectionately by Prowse who tells the crowd, “My band is about the only band he hasn’t been in!” The scathing Friends Like You and I Don’t Care are already highlights before, for Dan’s finale, he invites his son up onto the stage. The pair perform two excellent Pogues covers – The Irish Rover and Dirty Old Town and despite his age, Dan’s young offspring is word perfect (not to mention utterly charming). Give it a few more years and there’s bound to be another Donnelly making his name in the music world.

Originally beloved for his bands Pele and Amsterdam before then beginning to play under his own name (“It’s all the same thing”, he laughs at one point) Prowse’s energetic performance is a sight to behold. Whether it’s impassioned ballads or rousing protest songs, he nails them all, accompanied by the superb Nico (Fiddle of Fire) on violin and backing vocals as well as by several audience singalongs. There are several lump-in-the-throat moments with Here I Lie (written to comfort his daughter when he dies), and Does This Train Stop on Merseyside, which references events including Hillsborough and the abduction of James Bulger. His introduction to Battle is equally emotive as he stresses the importance of speaking out if you’re struggling and pleads with the audience to “talk to a stranger in the pub – or send me an email and I’ll reply.” He seems delighted with the warm welcome which greets the opening night of his tour, mentioning his gratitude for people regardless of if they’ve followed him “for 35 years or five days”.

Another mention must go here for the wonderful Nico, as the already anthemic Taking on the World sounds absolutely glorious with its hook played on violin and an encore cover of Born to Run is equally mesmerising. And a mention also for The Peacock, to which it was my first visit. It’s a brilliant little venue and, for those in the know, tonight’s line-up was a match made in heaven.

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