He is now 71, the Cockney Rebel. Last Sunday Steve Harley was in the mainstage of the 013 in Tilburg, The Netherlands. The hall was furnished with chairs for this acoustic show. The balcony and stairs were not open to the public, the seats were nicely filled this evening, although there was also enough space in the back.
About ten minutes before the start of the show someone came on stage with some announcements. During the show, the bars are closed, something that you can also find on the event page, there is merch for sale and we kindly asked not to film during the concert, especially not with the flash on. This is because it is very distracting for the band, we were told.
No support act this evening, so Steve Harley, with a crutch, and the band came on stage at eight thirty, as planned. They play the first song and immediately people start filming. Where’s the decency? On a few occasions, Harley also spotted mobile devices and by means of disapproving gestures, the best man continued the show unperturbed, although he will also regret that some people feel they have to film something or take a picture.
The evening consisted of two sets with a break in between. In the first part mainly covers were discussed. Not entirely strange of course. His latest album ‘Uncovered’ consists almost entirely of songs that Harley would have liked to have written himself. We were immediately presented with a nice anecdote about ‘How Can I Tell You’, which is originally by Cat Stevens. The two once performed together and then Harley asked Stevens if he wanted to play that song to which Stevens replied that he hadn’t played that song in thirty years. Harley personally thinks it’s one of the most beautiful love songs in pop history. He later saw a video on YouTube that Stevens had played the song during a show not much later. Harley said with a laugh that he was disappointed that he didn’t receive any credits.
At one point there was slight confusion on stage and the reason for it was quickly made known to us. Harley had changed the setlist on the bus to Tilburg. Because of this, it took a while before guitarist Dave Delarre was ready. “Take your time David,” said Harley, “Let’s all play the same song.” With ‘Out Of Time’ by the Rolling Stones, the atmosphere was good. The audience sang along with the band and the gentlemen on stage also found it noticeably very pleasant. For example, Harley asked if the audience wanted to join him. Wickens started playing the chords again and Harley yelled at him with a wink to order “No, with ME!”
Let’s talk about the musicians themselves. Except for a few minor flaws that are always lurking, the band played very tight. There was no drum kit present and that turned out to be a very wise choice in this setting. You never missed him. Violinist/guitarist Barry Wickens struck a chord with his violin in particular. Harley himself sang as Harley did in the 1970s. He’s not the best, most skilled singer, but the character in his voice is still there. The singing together this evening was of a high standard.
After an hour it was time for the break and after about 25 minutes it was time for the second part of the set. With this, the band would completely captivate the audience. Although the beginning was one of those beauty flaws mentioned earlier. The Cockney Rebel did not have his ear in yet, as a result of which he started singing in a different tone. He was visibly shocked by it himself and quickly put it in.
For ‘Journey’s End (A Father’s Promise)’ he said that after 35 years he finally dared to record a sensitive song. He wrote the song for his son. He also said that he was now a grandfather and that he had received two videos from his son today. One on which his grandson cycled for the first time without training wheels and the other on which his granddaughter took her first independent steps. Touching to see with how much pride he said this. “In the 70s I was a rockstar and now I’m talking about my grandchildren on stage, the evolution,” he joked.
At the end of the evening, another row of classics came out of the top hat that started with “Mr. Soft’ followed by ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’, where everyone got the space to solo. The band could do nothing wrong with the audience and this was rewarded with a big round of applause. Then followed a really beautiful, stretched version of his first number one hit ‘Sebastian’. This ended the regular set. The applause justifiably continued. “I’m not going off stage with my crutch to wait behind three minutes and get back on, there’s probably something we can play.” So, how could it be otherwise, ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)’ ended the evening.
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