Steve Harley

& Cockney Rebel

Review: Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Birmingham Symphony Hall

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It was an emotionally-charged evening as 70s icon Steve Harley took to the stage in Birmingham with a stellar two-and-a-half-hour set last night.

Starring alongside his incredibly talented seven-piece Cockney Rebel band - featuring special guests The Mona Lisa Twins - the star simply stunned at the Symphony Hall, proving his vocal talent and ability to charm a crowd are still very much alive.

Though his set was both engaging and entertaining, the night was tainted by a sombre mood following the horrific terror attacks in France - and the potential threat to the UK, as the France v England friendly football match took place at the same time at Wembley.

"I've never stood on stage and been political," said Steve.

"But I do know a few minutes ago a football match kicked off in Wembley. Good luck to them. They are our closest allies."

The crowd appreciated his sentiment - and gladly complied when Steve requested a round of applause for our neighbours.

The crowd was, in fact, one of the most adoring I have ever witnessed - creating an excellently electric atmosphere, singing and dancing along to every song they knew. Which was most.

A highlight of the evening was a powerful, progressive rendition of haunting 1973 hit Sebastian. The opening notes alone saw the crowd go wild, as Steve wowed with his wide-ranging, strong vocals on a darkened red stage.  And the band were sublime - each of them pitch-perfect and eventually combining to create an incredibly dramatic crescendo. And it was stunning.

While the first half of the show was a mixture of songs requested by fans and selected by Steve, the second half saw the group perform 1975 album The Best Years of Our Lives in full, featuring excellent performances of the lively Mr Raffles and the eerie It Wasn't Me.

And, as if the show was not already impressive enough, fans were treated to not one - but two - renditions of all-time classic Make Me Smile. The first (held midway through the second set due to the track sequence of the album) saw Steve perform the song alone on acoustic guitar - giving a delightfully different slant to the hit.

A full-on explosive performance of the song later, meanwhile, featuring the entire band, saw the whole room take to their feet - echoing the lyrics and clapping and dancing along.

And, though the crowd were convinced the show was over, the group treated the venue to one final, tremendous performance of 1974 hit Tumbling Down, which ended with the crowd repeatedly singing the lines 'Oh dear, look what we've done to the blues, blues, blues' with such conviction, even Steve appeared astounded.

'Special' he emotionally murmured as he left the stage.

Special indeed.

By Kirsten Rawlins

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