Belfast Telegraph

Cliff Richard is still the eternal young one as bachelor boy lights up Odyssey

By Michael Conaghan

An eternally youthful angel in the court of the Devil's music, Cliff Richard is spending his eighth decade rediscovering the sounds that kickstarted his career.

His latest album The Fabulous Rock 'n 'Roll Songbook is exactly that, 14 tracks inspired by the likes of Elvis, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly.

He discarded rock's surly rebelliousness for the sunnier uplands of family entertainment early on, rightly judging that the boy next door was a more enduring career proposition even at pensionable age.

Perhaps the most loyal fan base in history has ensured his longevity and produced a bewildering display of statistics.

The aforementioned album, for instance, will be his 100th.

Taking the stage to a gratifyingly ballsy guitar intro from his youthful band, Cliff launched into Reelin' And Rockin'.

Of the 55 or so years since the start of his career he looked like he had aged about five, indicating that those tips he used to receive from the Top Of The Pops make-up girls were doing their job.

The little flurries of dance movements and the voice remain intact from their classic Saturday evening TV heyday as Cliff set about doing what he does best – giving the audience what they want

So Summer Holiday rubbed shoulders with the likes of Wired For Sound.

Move It had a swampy and southern Creedence-style overhaul, and a tryptich from the new album showed how conversant he is with classic American ballads like Sealed With A Kiss, adding to the mystery of his relative lack of success in the States.

A soul-inspired duet on Twelfth Of Never seemed, however, like an unneccesary sideways leap into Simon Cowell territory.

For me the evening worked best when it concentrated on material from his Seventies renaissance.

Miss You Nights with a spectacular light show in tandem was sung with a gospel-like passion, and the imperishable We Don't Talk Anymore may well be the Cliff song that outlasts all the others.

The irony is that Cliff sings rock and roll so well precisely because, bar the odd tipple of wine, he has avoided the trappings of the rock and roll lifestyle.

But the squeaky clean image is leavened by genuine warmth between himself and his audience.

As Clive James once observed: "Cliff is a great example to all of we."

Four stars

Belfast Telegraph


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