Legendary 70’s superstar, Leo Sayer, brought his hugely successful and much celebrated “The Show Must Go On – 50th Anniversary Tour” to Liverpool’s iconic Philharmonic Hall last Sunday, and what a fun-packed, energetic, inch-perfect end-of-tour show it was!
I’d began the night by chatting to my neighbour in the stalls, as I often do, only to discover that he was the bass player’s brother-in-law. “It’s been some tour,” he told me. “Leo is on fire.” We went on to discuss the likes of the Stones, Macca, Elton, Dylan, Fleetwood Mac et al, exploring the reasons why these legendary acts keep on touring. Nostalgia? Pure love for their art? An inability to stop being creative? A lust for attention and justification of their craft? Money (unlikely)? Fending off the reaper?
“It’s not nostalgia for Leo,” my neighbour said. “He’s better than ever.”
And, boy, he couldn’t have been more right.
Based in the heart of Liverpool’s bustling Georgian Quarter, the Phil is the perfect backdrop for stars such as Leo with big hits and a big sound. He may be small in stature, but his voice, stunningly, was still, at 74, big enough to fill this hall ten times over. He hit every note with the sort of confidence and swagger that a 25 year old in their prime only could, and he looks no older than 1975 either! His famous mane of curly hair is still buoyant, and his jack-in-the-box energy bouncing from corner-to-corner of the large stage was mind-blowing for a man old enough to be long retired.
“The Show Must Go On”, Leo’s 1973 hit that was co-written by David Courtney, opened the show like a firework, and the Liverpool crowd were already sensing a party starting to bubble. He glided into “One Man Band’, the tune that ended up on The Who frontman Roger Daltrey’s debut solo record, before stunning the packed out crowd with his incredible harmonica playing during “Raining in My Heart” – a Buddy Holly tune that Leo revived for his 1978 album Leo Sayer. The remainder of the first half was, in truth, mesmerising. His delivery and range is better than ever – “a true professional,” as my Dad smiled, reminiscing on the last time he saw him in 1974. Leo still sounds even better live than he does on record!
Opening the second half with a rousing “Thunder in My Heart”, Leo pulled bums from seats and the party well and truly began. It’s easy to forget how many great songs this incredible musician brought to the world, and rousing versions of disco classic “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” and the beautifully delicate “When I Need You” only exacerbated that thought. Leo would stun the Liverpool faithful with two brilliantly original “Leo-like versions” of two Beatles classics, as he would describe them. Both “Eleanor Rigby” and “Across The Universe” were great touches in the city of music, and both appear on his recent album release, Northern Songs – a tribute to his heroes, the fab four. Only weeks earlier, during a telephone interview with Leo himself, had he told me that he’d become John Lennon’s smoking pal at the back of the Apple building in London during the hedonistic days of 1969.
Sayer closed the show with “Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance)”and “How Much Love”, and was met with a rapturous standing ovation from a thrilled crowd. Everyone was beyond delighted – even shocked, dare I say, at the power, dynamism and sheer love that filled the room. Leo and his band brought boundless energy, exuberance and a hit packed show to Liverpool to close what is, surely, only the beginning of a late career revival from one of the UK’s much loved entertainers. Glastonbury legends spot next, do you think?