Edwyn Collins review – soulful inspiration still ripping it up

It has been 14 years since Edwyn Collins – the former Orange Juice frontman turned suave solo star – suffered two cerebral haemorrhages, a near-death experience that scrambled his language skills and left him physically impaired. In the years since, his focus on rehabilitation and determination to make new music have been inspiring examples of grit and wit. He turned 60 last week, but rather than taking his foot off the gas, Collins and his six-piece band are heading off around the UK in support of Badbea, his ruminative but often frisky new record.

One of the creative sparks behind Badbea, his ninth solo album, was repurposing lyrics that Collins had written before his brush with mortality. Similarly, this gig straddles the past and present, interlacing recent material with beloved classics. In Glasgow, it is a particularly supportive home town crowd – a buoyant throng dotted with vintage quiffs – and the energy levels crackle with every artfully recreated Orange Juice track, from the loping funk of I Guess I’m Just a Little Too Sensitive to the chiming guitars of Dying Day.

The brand-new songs sound resonant, too: the strident fuzzbox riff of It’s All About You has the feel of some lost 1960s adventure series, while the plaintive It All Makes Sense to Me has an appealing sway and a righteous sax solo (courtesy of keyboardist and veteran Dexys cohort Sean Read). Rocking a Verve Records T-shirt and occasionally brandishing his walking stick like a conductor’s baton, Collins can still hold court even while seated. The between-song banter is sometimes a little halting but always emphatic; his singing voice, however, remains remarkable, a soulful, weathered baritone.

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A duet with his son William for In Your Eyes is a mid-set highlight but Collins saves some of the best until last. The rapid-fire deployment of squelchy-bass classic Rip It Up, the raucous Don’t Shilly Shally – which sees him up on his feet – and sultry mid-1990s earworm A Girl Like You is a remarkable career-spanning triptych. An emotional encore that climaxes with the vintage Postcard cut Blue Boy is just the cherry on top.

At Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, 29 August, then touring until 17 September.


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