Gig Review: Steve Harley, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Nov 24th
They came from as far afield as Australia and America for this one-off show that saw Steve Harley perform Cockney Rebel’s first two albums with an orchestra and choir.
With such passionate fans– others had travelled from Norway, Holland and Luxembourg – the 61-year-old singer was naturally nervous about the evening, especially as he received a standing ovation from the capacity audience as soon as he walked on stage.
“We’d better deliver now,” he quipped as his eight-piece band, the Orchestra of the Swan and the Chamber Choir, launched into Hideaway, the first track from 1973′s debut LP, The Human Menagerie.
Not that Steve need have worried about delivering. The crowd was with him all the way and as he relaxed the show got better and better. He admitted he had to use autocue to remind him of the words of a couple of songs but, hey, he’d never performed some of the tracks, like Muriel the Actor, on stage before – and they were written 40 years ago.
The highlights of the first half, which featured all of The Human Menagerie, were Sebastian, a real showstopper with the 25-piece orchestra and Death Trip, with the musicians bringing the song to a grand crescendo.
Also worth a mention is Spandau Ballet’s Steve Norman, guesting here as percussionist and saxophonist, and Harley’s long-term buddy Barry Wickens on violin who really went to town on Crazy Raver.
Just like Cockney Rebel found their feet on their second album,1974′s The Psychomodo, the Symphony Hall show went up a gear after the interval. Harley was relaxed and chatty and hit single Mr Soft had everyone singing along.
Despite saying that just the two albums would be played, Steve couldn’t resist adjusting the setlist to include the title track of his latest album, Stranger Comes To Town, and Black or White from 1976′s Timeless Flight.
This show proved such a success there’s talk about further performances in London and Manchester. Those cities have a treat in store…