I never expected to wake up saying that going to see Rick Astley was one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever been to! Surely nobody has. But that’s exactly what’s happened to me this morning after watching the 80’s pop icon perform at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall.
Support is from Gabrielle. A little harsh to describe her as a support act, technically the warm up. Although it’s 25 years since she appeared on the music scene, Gabrielle still sounds as good as she did back then.
She opens up with the classic ‘Early In The Morning’ followed by ‘Show Me’, the first single taken from her album ‘Under My Skin’ which was released in April. Audience chit chat was kept to a minimum as Gabrielle admitted to feeling under the weather and wanted to save her voice, but to be honest I would never have noticed. She’s on great form and treats us to a strong set of newer songs which includes ‘Shine’ another single from her latest album, and obviously the oldies. Rise, Out Of Reach and finally a slightly more funky version of Dreams which gets the audience up and swaying.
I’d have liked to have heard her do a solo version of “If You Ever” the hit she had with East 17. Such great song.
The clock ticks round to half past eight and onto the stage comes the man we’re all here to see. Armed with a guitar he bursts into song with “Try” the third single to be taken from his latest album Beautiful Life. This Old House follows and Rick introduces keyboard player Rob Taggart who promptly plays some house piano. Rick and Rob clearly have a great chemistry and you sense that there’s more to come from these two.
Now for a Stock Aitken and Waterman classic and some serious audience participation. Together Forever gets everyone up and dancing. Rick reminds us that his carefully thought through set includes plenty of opportunities to sit down. His banter with the crowd reminds me of that you’d get in a good old fashioned working men’s club. I suppose then that it’s no coincidence that Rick supported Phoenix Nights creator Peter Kay during his 2010 tour.
It’s fair to say that the blokes are outnumbered, but despite this, the members of the audience gently teasing Rick are male, “We love you Ricky” cries one chap. Rick certainly knows how to handle a crowd and he always has a great comeback. Tracks old and new followed. “She Makes Me” a song that Rick tells us is about his wife but actually it could apply to anyone’s other half. You could hear a pin drop as he sang his 1991 hit “Cry For Help” and he was accompanied by his brilliant backing singers who played a huge part in the show. To be fair the whole band did. We had more mash-ups than the Smash Martians. Hot Hot Hot by Arrow, Paul Simon’s Call Me Al, George Ezra’s Shotgun. Rick even covers a Daft Punk track.
The show comes to a close with a nigh on 10 minute version of Never Gonna Give You Up. Each member of the band given the chance to shine and we’re treated to a bit of Queen & Barry Manilow amongst other tracks.
Rick skips off stage in a Morecambe and Wise fashion and leaves the band to accept the standing ovation.
As we file out of The Royal Concert Hall and into the relatively mild November air, there’s a real buzz about the city, a real togetherness.
I bet I’m not the only one looking forward to the next time Rick rolls into town.
Words & photos by Richard Newbold