Steve Harley

& Cockney Rebel

Steve Harley Acoustic Trio, Robin 2, Bilston

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He was known in his younger days for chewing gum on Top of The Pops, punk-style clothing and hefty riffs - but last night Steve Harley put a lighter, more relaxed slant on his music, with beautiful results.

The Cockney Rebel star played an acoustic trio at the Robin 2 in Bilston - a show which, despite it being minus four outside, saw the Black Country venue heaving with devoted fans.

And for good reason too. Fans may have seen Steve live many times (I myself have seen him four times), but last night’s set presented his music in a completely different light - giving the audience a very different experience to what they may have witnessed in the past.

Steve, dressed in his usual black waistcoat and white shirt get-up, was joined by two superb musicians on keyboard and violin - and though the stage looked almost empty in comparison to his rock band set, they more than made up for their numbers in sound and quality.

“It’s nice to be back here,” smiled Steve.

“I’ve played for the promoter here more than 20 times. He first saw me at Barbarella’s in Birmingham in 1973 or 1974.

“I played the Symphony Hall a few years ago with the full orchestra and choir - that was a huge night. It was unforgettable.”

Steve also revealed he was recording the show for inclusion on a new album.

“We’ll cut out all the stories though,” he chuckled.

“You don’t want to be listening to those driving up the M6.”

They kicked off the two-hour set with 1977 number Red is a Mean, Mean Colour, which instantly showed off Steve’s smooth, yet gravelly tone. One real benefit to hearing Steve on an acoustic tour was the ability to hear just how wonderful his vocals are; with beautiful tone and remarkable strength.

Fan favourites Judy Teen and Mr Soft followed and, of course, went down a storm - with the crowd whooping and cheering as they recognised the opening tune and filling in gaps in the song left by Steve. These upbeat songs showed the group’s versatility too, as much of the set was filled with enchanting, slow moments; beautiful, but boring if the tone hadn’t changed throughout the night.

Needless to say, Steve’s set was anything but dull - enthralling in fact; even hypnotising at times, with the music carefully constructed on songs such as Understand and Star for a Week to take the crowd on a journey amid his already luscious lyrics.

The most outstanding of all the superb performances from Steve was, however, undoubtedly his rendition of the late Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne. A gorgeous, jaw-dropping performance of a stunning number. Throughout the song, fans hung on his every word; the room so quiet the tinkling of bottles could be heard from behind the bar.

Steve also paid tribute to Bob Dylan, of whom he said he is ‘a huge fan’, before telling a humorous tale of meeting the star and performing a wonderful rendition of She Belongs To Me - paying special attention to keep to Dylan’s rise and fall of tone.

Top hits Tumbling Down, Sebastian and Make Me Smile followed - creating a perfect end to a splendid evening.

What’s more, Steve even agreed to meet my dad after the show - he’s been a fan of his since the two of them were in their early 20s. And I’m delighted to say, he’s just as lovely in person as any fan could hope.

Hurry on back, Steve.

By Kirsten Rawlins

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