Review: Rick Astley was feeling, and sounding, 'bloody marvelous' at his Clearwater birthday concert
How's this for a clue that Rick Astley's current U.S. tour isn't for him just another run-of-the-mill, here-we-go-again jaunt in a never-ending series of live concerts, the way it might be for some performers who started doing this in the '80s.
When the newly 51-year-old singer's band surprised him with a birthday cake during a concert at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on Monday, Astley's wife couldn't resist stepping out to the stage to snap a few quick pics with her phone, not for some kind of social media promotion, but just to document the occasion as a family, the way you imagine she might if they were home in their kitchen.
This tour isn't everyday for Astley, it's a special occasion, his first performances in America in nearly 30 years, and you believed him when he said on stage that the return has him feeling "bloody marvelous."
He sounded bloody marvelous, too.
He opened the show with a new song, This Old House, from his well-recieved new album, 50, then got the crowd on their feet with his 1987 smash, Together Forever, but it wasn't until he performed Nat King Cole's When I Fall in Love, a cover that appeared on his first album — an audacious move for a then-21-year-old singer, he admitted Monday — that eyes went wide.
As Astley's muscular baritone filled the theater with the first lines of the song, a woman seated in one of the back rows shouted over it with delight, "Oh my God, his voice, it's still the same!"
Astley is loose on stage, unbelievably charming, funny and self-deprecating, deftly flipping his mic around and rubbing it imitate the sound of scratching a record, cracking jokes about the audience taking bathroom breaks during his new songs, and how he's way too old to be covering Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk, all before performing an excellent cover of Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk that had even the theater's ushers dancing in the aisles.
He pointed out how "it's kind of rich" for an "'80s pop star" to be writing songs filled with social commentary, before strapping on a guitar and performing Pieces, inspired by a story about a man burning his possessions on the lawn after his home was foreclosed on. That song, along with another new one, Pray With Me, ended up being highlights of the show.
So who goes to a Rick Astley show in 2017?
Sure, there were some YouTube fans who'd discovered the singer after he became an internet meme. Jimmy Jordan Jr., 14, was there with his dad, Jimmy Jordan, in matching Astley-esque black blazers and black ties (the younger Jordan's was a clip-on).
"I told him to look at the calendar and see if there was a concert he wanted to go to coming up. He said Rick Astley, and I was like, 'that's the one you want to go to?'," the father said. "I remembered him as background music. It was always on in bars, but there was a lot of '80s stuff going on."
The son, with a wry smile that suggested he was finding the way he'd managed to get his dad there, and in costume no less, hilarious, said he'd discovered Astley from the "YouTube stuff and the memes," but conceded that "the music stuck."
The Jordans were, by far, the exception, however. The audience appeared to be filled with earnest Astley fans, old enough to remember his '80s heyday. Throughout the show, they called out "we missed you," and "we love you," to which Astley replied, repeatedly, "thank you, my dear."
And then for an encore, (or maybe call it a "Rick roll") Astley returned to the stage to perform Never Gonna Give You Up. The crowd went wild and tossed the birthday balloons they'd been handed earlier into the air.