Yusuf (aka Cat Stevens) Birmingham NIA November 23rd 2009
Its been a long time (33 years) since we’ve had a Cat Stevens tour. For me its been 35 years since I saw Cat Stevens at Newcastle Odeon. My memories of that show are still strong; I remember very clearly listening in awe at the beauty and purity of his voice and his wonderful songs. The atmosphere that night was almost cathedral like, with everyone in the massive hall hanging on to every word that Cat sing.
Things are different 35 years on. There is no longer a Cat Stevens, but there is a Yusuf Islam, and on Monday Laura and I took the train to Birmingham to listen to his beautiful voice and hear his wonderful songs again.
We sort of knew what to expect. The show was going to be in two parts; the first being a preview of Yusuf’s (I have to get used to calling him that) musical “Moonshadow” which he hopes to take to the West End next year. And the rest was going to be a set of Yusuf singing a selection of his songs new and old with a small number of the hits. We’d read the reviews of the Dublin show which hadn’t gone well with people walking out during the preview of the Musical “Moonshadow”. Yusuf had promised to rethink the show as a result of the experience in Dublin, and indeed he did.
We entered the NIA at around 7pm. This is the second time that Laura and I had been there, the first being for Paul McCartney a number of years ago. Laura bought a t-shirt and lovely Tea for the Tillerman mug, and I bought the programme. We then took our seats and found that a card with the running order had been placed on everyone’s seat. This was a development from the Dublin experience, to try and make it clear to the audience that the first half of the show was the musical, followed by a short interval and then the secodn half was to be Yusuf and his band. The running order had been changed from Dublin, where the musical was presented during the show, which upset some of the crowd who were unsure if Yusuf would be returning.
After a little wait Yusuf took the stage at aorund 8pm and introduced the musical Moonshadow. It is a tale of a boy who lives in a dark world and is searching for meaning and, I guess, spirituality. It includes a number of Cat Steven’s songs from the 60s and 70s. The graphics were outstanding and the cast did a great job. Yusuf appeared now and then in a sort of narrator role, but left the cast to sing his songs, which was a bit frustrating for the audience.
After a short interval, Yusuf returnded with his band at around 8.50. The set was as expected a selection of old and new songs, including a few hits and a lot of album tracks. If you were a Cat Stevens fan, you would be very happy with this set, I suspect those who only knew the hits would have enjoyed it, but may have been a little disappointed. Yusuf’s voice sounded exactly the same as it did all those years ago. The well known songs sounded great: Wild World, Moonshadow, Morning has Broken, Father and Son. And the others, including the new ones, were also great; in fact his new songs are actually very similar to his 70s classics. The crowd loved him, this is a very different reaction to Dublin; he must have been delighted.
Laura declared it one of the best concerts that she’s been to. I wouldn’t disagree with that; it was wonderful to see him again; something I thought I’d never be able to do.
World of darkness (Yusuf)
Maybe theres a world
Matthew and Son
Remember the days of the Old school yard
When a door closes (Yusuf)
Father and Son
On the road to find out
A bad night
Where Do The Children Play
Thinking ‘Bout You
Boots & Sand
Oh Very Young
Tea for the tillerman instrumental/talks to audience
I Think I See The Light
Miles from Nowhere
Morning Has Broken
Don’t Be Shy
All Kinds of Roses
Father and Son