Across four decades in the industry – as frontman for Amsterdam and Pele, and as a solo artist – Ian Prowse may never have scored a hit but he has built up a bit of a cult following through the strength of his songwriting. Released last month, his career retrospective The Story of Ian Prowse demonstrates why and here on the stage of Blackpool’s famous Opera House – in a support slot for one-time collaborator Elvis Costello – he’s here to show us in person.
From under his trademark mop of curly hair, Prowse belts out singalong after singalong. The mighty ‘Fireworks’ sets the tone for a short but distinctly sweet half-hour set. As Chris Howard lays down a rhythm on piano, Laura McKinlay’s fiddle and Fiona McConnell’s piccolo trade licks, building a huge sound for the anthemic ‘Takin on the World’ and ‘Something’s Changed’.
Prowse introduces ‘Here I Lie’, the title track from his most recent record by telling us he wrote it for his daughter, named Rosalita after the Bruce Springsteen track. “It could have been worse, she could have been called ‘Born To Run’,” he says. The track itself is a touching one, Prowse imagining how he might be remembered once he’s gone and whether he might still be able to be a comforting presence for his children from beyond the grave. “I didn’t go I’m here you know out here on the Mersey wind/I am in you, you are in me, that’s just the way it is”.
The only tune not from the retrospective is ‘Names & Numbers’ but this sprawling track allows Prowse’s crack backing band to show off their chops before he inevitably brings the curtain down with his most famous song, ‘Does This Train Stop of Merseyside?’ John Peel’s wife once said the great man could not listen to the song without shedding a tear, but as Prowse wraps up here, the mood is one of celebration.