Edwyn Collins at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea REVIEW: 'These are no pale imitations of former glories'

Edwyn Collins at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea, on September 10, 2019. Picture by Paul Windsor
Edwyn Collins at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea, on September 10, 2019. Picture by Paul Windsor
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When confronted with a performer like Edwyn Collins it's hard to retain any degree of objectivity as a reviewer.

It's 14 years since the two strokes which very nearly killed him, and his long road to recovery has been well documented.

The recently released album, Badbea, is his fourth release since those dark times, and ninth solo album overall. And then of course there was his time before that as frontman of seminal post-punk/indie-pop pioneers Orange Juice.

So it’s no surprise that there is a huge amount of warmth towards Collins in the near-to-capacity Wedge for his first visit to Portsmouth in a very long time.

READ MORE: Edwyn and wife Grace talk about his ongoing recovery and music’s role in it

However, these are no pale imitations of former glories, nor his he trading on sympathy because of his condition.

While Collins sits for most of the show, his wit is undimmed, and that rich, resonant singing voice remains intact.

And he has surrounded himself with a top five-piece band, including guitarists Andy Hackett and Barrie Cadogan (the latter is playing in Portsmouth on September 21 with his own band, Little Barrie).

READ MORE: Little Barrie to make their live return in Portsmouth

The set cherry-picks from across his four decade career, while highlighting the new album – including Badbea's I Guess We Were Young, which pulls off that trick of being both elegaic and uplifting. 

There's a touching moment when he brings his son William on stage to duet on In Your Eyes and gets to play proud dad.

Then the distinctive squelching bass of Orange Juice's Rip It Up provokes cheers and outbreaks of dancing among the crowd.

There's even a touch of pantomime when Edwyn asks the audience if he should stand up, and of course he does, for a frenetic Don't Shilly Shally, and the main set closer, his global 1995 hit, A Girl Like You, which successfully melded indie rock with northern soul. As the song reaches its climax, Collins waves his walking stick around triumphantly as he sings 'Goodbye' repeatedly before departing, leaving his band, and Cadogan in particular, to really fly to the finish line.

But of course that's not it. The four-song encore highlights the strength of his music, past and present. 

Kicking off with a delicate, acoustic Low Expectations, from his commercial peak of the Gorgeous George album, we then get Badbea's title track, a touching meditation on 'a ruined monument to life and death.' But the band aren't going to leave us on a down note – they finish with Falling and Laughing and Blue Boy – Orange Juice's first and second singles respectively from 1980.

The joy Collins gets from his music is evident, and from the response it generates, the joy it creates in others is equally evident. 

By the end there are shouts for him to return soon. Here's hoping he does.