Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel with Orchestra & Choir Sage Gateshead 21st June 2014
It was a truly amazing experience to see Steve Harley perform the first two classic Cockney Rebel albums “The Human Menagerie” and “The Psychomodo”, accompanied by full band, the Orchestra of the Swan and Choir, conducted by Andrew Powell, last night. This concert was first performed at the Birmingham Symphony Hall in 2012, and is now available on DVD. Steve Harley said at the time “ It’s been a long time coming – something like 39 years. Now we’re here, at last, with an orchestra and a choir and a big rock band, to play those first two albums pretty well the way they appeared on the original vinyl. Maybe some things should never change, in spite of progress. Welcome, my old friends.”
First Half; The Human Menagerie: Hideaway; What Ruthy Said; Loretta’s Tale; Crazy Raver; Sebastian; Mirror Freak; My Only Vice; Muriel the Actor; Spaced Out; Judy Teen; Chameleon; Death Trip.
Second Half; The Psychomodo: Sweet Dreams; Psychomodo; Mr. Soft; Singular Band; Ritz; Cavaliers; Bed in the Corner; Sling It!; Big Big Deal; Black or White; Tumbling Down.
Encore: Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me).
A great concert. Stand-outs (although there were many, with standing ovations for several songs) were: “Sebastian”, “”Tumbling Down”, and “Make Me Smile”.
Steve Harley put his heart and soul into the performance last night. His voice just gets better with time, and the songs found a new life when played with the full band and orchestra. Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet) was star number two of the show, playing great sax and clearly enjoying every minute of it. Steve had some great craic with us all, telling us stories about his days with the band in the 70s, and bringing back memories for me of classic gigs at Newcastle City Hall and Reading 1974, all of which he referred to. He related a memory from the City Hall of a guy jumping off the balcony and climbing down the light tower. He introduced “Tumbling Down” by reminding us all how we would leave the hall still singing the closing line “Oh dear!….look what they’ve done to the blues, blues, blues…”. Steve quoted Hammersmith Odeon as an example, with the Cockney Rebel crowds entering the tube still singing, but I recall the very same thing happening at Newcastle City Hall, and Reading in 74 and at a gig at Redcar Coatham Bowl. But for me the high point has to be “Sebastian”, Steve shrouded in dark gothic lighting, wringing every drop of emotion out of the epic, haunting, enigmatic ballad. Stunning and beautiful. And the mass singalong, including the full orchestra singing the “ooh la la la”s, for “Make Me Smile” took us all back to our youth. Me, I was back in the City Hall, Steve was No 1 in the charts and the atmosphere was simply electric; I thought the roof would come off.
Thanks for another great night, Steve.