He may not be the household name his talent deserves, but after being a founder member of Ace, singing on some of Squeeze and Mike and the Mechanics best loved hits, and a respected session musician with a long list of credits as keyboard player, Paul Carrack’s own solo career is doing very nicely. An extensive UK tour featured this London date at the prestigious Palladium, now regularly booking bands.
Sadly this was to be the last show for some while for many of us as the Coronavirus takes its grip, and though there was a decent crowd a large number seemed to have decided to play safe and stay away judging by the gaps even in the premium seats.
There was a very impressive opening acoustic set from Amy Meehan, a very assured 17 year old Irish woman who held the audience’s attention with her personable manner and a mixture of originals and covers running from Carole King to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
Looking dapper in thick spectacles and a wide-brimmed hat, Paul Carrack came on stage, playing rhythm guitar fronting a lively opener in ‘Amazing’, one of a number from latest album ‘These Days’, before he retreated in more familiar fashion to piano or organ for much of the gig.
It says much for him that one of his signature songs, Squeeze’s ‘Tempted’, could be so casually tossed into the set just two songs in. ‘Eyes Of Blue’ was a perfect showcase for that smooth, immaculately pitched voice that makes him one of Britain’s foremost white soul singers while ‘Life In A Bubble’ was one of many enlivened by a sax solo from my own man of the match, Steve Beighton.
He has had a stable band line up for a while and this showed in their tight intuitive playing, though it was a show devoid of gimmicks, or indeed long between song intros from Paul, with the music allowed to speak for itself.
More uptempo numbers like the Chris Difford co-write ‘Bet Your Life’, which saw the band’s one real jam of the night and ‘Perfect Storm’ sat alongside gentler fare including ‘Satisfy My Soul’ with its ‘Stand By Me’ feel .
Most of the songs stuck closely to their recorded counterparts, though Paul delivered a typically moving version of the classic ‘The Living Years’ to a slightly different arrangement. It showcased his voice brilliantly as did the killer ballad he co-wrote for the Eagles in ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’. There were also a couple of old standards in ‘Raining In My Heart’ and ‘Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying’.
However, as the gig reached the closing stages the shackles came off somewhat and the fare became a bit looser whether the reggae flavoured ‘These Days’ , or ‘Grooving’ and ‘You Make Me Feel Good’ which had a strong R n B feel, the band vacating their fixed positions and pulling some great poses, guitarist Andy Staves in particular.
It warmed the gig up nicely enough for a previously sedate crowd to get to their feet as Paul closed with a version of ‘How Long’ sounding as fresh and vibrant as it did (gulp!) 45 years ago.
Momentarily wondering what he had saved for an encore, as he returned back on guitar I was reminded that he enjoyed another big hit with Mike and the Mechanics in ‘Over My Shoulder’, which featured some crowd participation, before closing an hour and 40 minute set with a lively cover of another sixties standard in the Searchers ‘When You Walk In The Room’.
In his unflashy, low key way, this was a perfect showcase for Paul Carrack’s enduring vocal and songwriting talents. It provided plenty of good memories to sustain me during the gig famine to come.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 7 February 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
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