Rick Astley live at the Bonus Arena, Hull, Friday 26th October.
Rick Astley has taken to the road with his latest album “Beautiful Life” and is playing venues all across the United Kingdom and Europe over the coming months, and if you have any doubts about Rick’s ability to sing or command an audience, then I suggest you go see him and be prepared for a shock.
“Beautiful Life” was released in July this year and is the follow up to his massive comeback album “50” two years ago, but where that album was a good easy listener, full of contemporary adult numbers and showtunes, “Beautiful Life” is a welcome return to more lively tracks, songs with a sparkle of joy and happiness, beat and bass, and above all, a demonstration of Rick’s ability as a songwriter and a vocalist. Rick has certainly not been afraid to push himself further than ever before with this release and that is never better demonstrated that the opening song of this tour, the epic “Try”.
Out of the darkness and the smoke, appears the man himself, backlit but just a few blue lamps that illuminate the atmosphere and gets the audience attentive and poised. It was odd that Rick should open the show with “Try”, when perhaps it’s grittyness and likeness to Snow Patrol’s “Run” would of been better served later on. Nevertheless, its presence is more than welcome and Rick, complete with guitar, gives everything he has to this outstanding track. What becomes apparent very quickly is this is not just a male solo artist performing live, but a showman, able to grab the attention of his flock and hold them all right in the moment. Just there.
After the opening numbers, it was time to acknowledge the past and the band extended the opening drums of Rick’s 1988 US number one hit “Together Forever” for a good minute or more before launching the song proper to rapturous applause. Another thing that strikes you with this show is the lighting and the visuals that accompany and make up the set, with rolling picture frames depicting Rick’s performance (often in black and white) and superb mood lighting displays that is either poignant or makes you wave your arms violently in an “I don’t care who’s looking at me” kind of fashion! It’s not just about what we hear now at a music show, but what we see, and more often than not, the lighting speaks out volumes that beats and rhythms simply cannot achieve. And this is one show where you will hear both the audio and the visual communicate overwhelmingly.
It’s not long before you become accustom to the set list, one new one, one old one. And it works. We’re all here to support “Beautiful Life” but we also want the classics. And in between superb performances of “She Makes Me”, “Last Night On Earth” and “Shivers”, Rick wheels out “She Wants To Dance With Me”, a lengthy audience participated “Hold Me In Your Arms” and the gospel laden “Cry For Help”, which Rick allows his two backing singers to take centre stage and shine in the dazzling white lighting that fires into the crowd.
Rick performs his comeback single “Angels On My Side” with assured confidence and also gives a sterling rendition of George Ezra’s “Shotgun” as well as taking a walk back into his own music past and the songs he grew up listening to and hearing all about him, most notably Rick Wakeman’s “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth”, while the visuals remind us of the likes of Joni Mitchell and Supertramp. By now Rick knows his audience and has taken every available opportunity to speak openly and honestly about his life, loves and private family times. He is also very funny, both with and about his flock and mostly about himself. At one moment he reminds us all that “I’ve been doing this for over thirty years now and fifteen of them I did sod all!”
All too soon the curtain falls but when you know Rick hasn’t sung the song we all want him to sing, that can only mean one thing. An Encore. Soon Rick is back on stage and we launch into two more recent tracks including “God Says” from “50” and then he starts us all off “We’re no strangers to love…” The audience finished the line and the first verse and chorus before the band strike up and its 1987 all over again. Giant balloon balls are thrown into the crowd to bounce around above their heads throughout and perhaps that may not of been a great thing, either if one landed on your head without prior warning, or as Rick himself taunts “will you leave the balls alone, children, I’m singing!” Either way it’s a perfect ending to a perfect song and a perfect evening and if your head isn’t hurting from flying beach balls, then your hands will with unashamed applause for this modern day Frank Sinatra.