As tea boys turned chart toppers go, Rick Astley has no equal. If anything, the voice that shocked the nation when ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ reached number one in a phenomenal 25 countries in 1987, has only gotten deeper and richer with time. The Lancashire lad is now 50, and his boyish looks have morphed into a blokey handsomeness, with his trench coats replaced by black suits and white shirts. He’s never looked or sounded better.
It’s risky to start a show with a brand new track from an album that isn’t even out yet, although if the appropriately titled 50 (released in June) is even half as good as ‘This Old House’ and the other tracks Rick rolled out at this show, then it’ll be a treat for fans. Astley’s vocal chops stunned the capacity crowd with this opening number and the second song – the Stock Aitken Waterman classic ‘Together Forever’ – had everyone on their feet.
Grooming the shy guy for international success, SAW gave Rick his biggest hits – the aforementioned ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ plus ‘Whenever You Need Somebody’, ‘Take Me To Your Heart’ and ‘Hold Me In Your Arms’ chief among them. But ‘Cry For Help’, his first attempt to prove himself beyond the PWL production line, wasn’t too shabby, reaching number seven in 1991 and proving to be the absolute highlight of this current tour.
The show ran for nearly two hours and our maestro delivered all those SAW fan favourites like ‘The Ones You Love’, plus new tracks like current single ‘Keep Singing’ which were strong enough to keep people in their seats rather than seizing the chance for bar visits and loo breaks. There were even get-up-and-dance cover versions of Clean Bandit and ‘Uptown Funk’.
In lesser hands (or indeed lesser lungs), the latter might seem cheesy – the sort of thing you’d expect to hear at Butlins on a hen weekend. Indeed some of Astley’s banter seems as out of date as those Rick-rolling dance moves he politely declines to re-enact.
Instead, he encouraged the ‘ladies’ to boogie and suggested most of the guys were only in the audience because they’ve been dragged along by their female other-halves, thus completing ignoring the gay fan base that comes from having a back catalogue of so many great pop songs.
But even the corniness was delivered with a cheeky chappy smile that showed Astley doesn’t take himself too seriously and he gave the crowd a hit-packed great night out. Asking how many people bought his 15-million-selling debut album, he was greeted with a deafening cheer. Asking how many people will buy the new one, the cheer was no less deafening. I’ve already put my order in.
For Rick Astley tour dates visit rickastley.co.uk. The new album 50 is out on June 17.
Words: Simon Button