Going to see one of your musical heroes in concert is an experience always fraught with danger. Why? Because frankly, few people in the audience are ever interested in hearing new songs – all they want to hear are the big hits. And so when I went to see Sir Cliff Richard’s 70th birthday concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday, it was with a feeling of some trepidation. The concert was titled ‘Bold as Brass’ and we knew in advance that Cliff would be accompanied by the big band sound of the Orchestra de Ville.
It really was a concert of two halves – the first replete with some of Cliff’s more well known hits like Devil Woman and The Day I Met Marie. Each song had a very different arrangement to the original, with All my Love and the Twelfth of Never being particular highlights. But the piece de resistance was, as usual, Miss You Nights, which remains my favourite song of all time by any artist. When this was released as a single back in 1975 it struggled to get to number 15 in the charts, yet no Cliff concert would be complete without it. It’s one of those ballads that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Well, so far, so good. We all enjoyed the first half. Sadly the same could not be said for the second which consisted entirely of big band renditions of songs totally unfamiliar to the audience. In fact, Cliff sang every single song on his new Bold as Brass album, and frankly I didn’t really enjoy one of them. Judging by the tepid applause from the rest of the audience, nor did they. My partner described his rendition of a couple of Cole Porter numbers as “murdering” them. It was Harry Connick Junior mixed in with Frank Sinatra – or at least it was supposed to be.
The trouble is, Cliff’s voice isn’t suited to this kind of music. It’s too mellow. It hasn’t got an edge. Don’t get me wrong, even at 70 he can still belt them out and his voice certainly hasn’t deteriorated with age, but he’s just not suited to this type of music. The only saving grace was that right at the end he gave us We Don’t Talk Anymore. Everyone loved it, but the fact that there was no encore told its own story. The audience upped and left as soon as We Don’t Talk Anymore was over.
And I was left thinking that it was very odd to go to a Cliff Richard concert when he didn’t even sing Move It or Living Doll.
* This first appeared in my EDP column this morning.