Review by Hayley Clark with Photography by Nikki Rodgers

It’s pretty hard to believe it’s 31 years since the boyhood squeaky clean charms of Rick Astley exploded from Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s vault. However tonight was even more surprising and a little sad that with eight albums and over 20 singles he gets his biggest crowd reaction from his debut single and only number one as a solo artist when there is so much more to Rick Astley.

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As 10,000 eager fans waited, they were treated to a superb set from singer songwriter Gabrielle. Her soulful voice rang through Birmingham’s Genting Arena as the crowd lapped up the 90’s classics in the all seated affair.

With the chimes of ‘Dreams’ ringing out from her simple yet entertaining set she brought the audience back to the mid nineties with waves of happiness as they waited patiently for Rick.

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Neon technicolor lights adorned the stage as the northern crooner appeared, dapperly dressed in black jacket and trousers to claps and screams, with the odd squark of “I love you Rick” from the audience. He bounded on the stage confidently backed by his band as he opened with ‘Try’.

His powerful voice and guitar playing captivated the audience as he rolled through tracks new and old marking his Beautiful Life Tour. Playfully joking with the audience he joked a heckler shouted “stop messing and play something from the 80s!” as an intro to top five hit ‘Together Forever’. It’s infectious beat and cheesy pop sound had the arena on their feet swaying from side to side as they sang along.

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It wasn’t long until however they retired to their seats as Rick played newer material. ‘Keep Singing’ showed the true strength of his vocals, the soulfulness flew across the arena in the comeback anthem of 2016. As he strummed along the silky tones left the audience clapping and toe tapping along.

In the three decade spanning set he covered Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Faster’ saying cheekily it was “Time to murder a song by another artist…” as he introduced George Ezra’s ‘Shotgun’, with the sound on point you could easily shut your eyes and think it was the young singer. Combining this with Paul Simon’s ‘Call Me Al’, Rick had the audience excited as they fell down nostalgic lanes back to the 80s.

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Dedicating ‘She Makes Me’ from latest album ‘Beautiful life’ to his wife, for all she does for him, the emotion in the room was high as the romantic ballad played out the lights dropped.

With the audience entertained by tales of his boyhood growing up and tour bus anecdotes, Rick’s personality shines through. Not afraid to be humble, on numerous occasions in the evening he encourages his fellow band members to take the spotlight, with his guitarist playing the solo from ‘We Will Rock You’ and keyboard player’s solo of Barry Manilow’s ‘Cococabana’ he made sure his fellow musicians were recognised.

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Lauren Johnson and Dawn Josephs were on hand to perform soulful higher notes. With tones and melodies off the scale they complimented the show from the start. Taking time from her current band ‘MF Robots’ Dawn showed off her savvy vocal skills, in ‘Cry For Help’ goosebumps filled the room as she took over leads. Lauren’s A Capella solo on ‘Hold Me In Your Arms’ left the audience entertained in the heartwarming competition between the two singers and audience to who could be louder.

With the band making their way to the front of the stage for ‘Shivers’, the tin drum beat took over the audience as the fun filled evening ended, as the arena filled in darkness and the clouds video filled the screen of the backdrop that had moved forward for the finale the audience cried for “One More song” erupting in Cheers as the screen floated upwards revealing their hero as the introduction of ‘Rise Up’ started.

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Following up with 50’s favourite ‘Dance’ it was like a different audience had appeared for the encore. Thanking the audience and saying he’ll be back soon and with Take That next year. The track the audience had been eagerly awaiting started to the introductory drum beat. As neon lights flashed from the stage like a spin of a Rubik’s Cube the crowd bounced onto their feet and started swaying from side to side going wild. With ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ undoubtedly a fan favourite it’s easy to see that had the boy from Newton-le-Willows played this repeatedly through the night the majority of the audience would have screamed and stomped until the arena roof blew off. However with ’50’ and ‘Beautiful Life’ fast becoming crowd favourites an evening with Rick Astley is one not to miss.

It’s like a variety show with talented musicians, comedy genius through his anecdotes and a bit of dancing thrown in for good measure. As Rick matures with his music he sounds better than ever with his poignant lyrics and soulful sounds he is quickly gaining his crown as British music royalty, even if he decides it’s time to turn back on his words and ‘Give Up’ on the nostalgic anthem the new music he is producing is more than capable of competing in the modern charts. As fans left  Birmingham’s Genting arena elated they flocked to the merchandise stands to get copies of ‘Beautiful Life’.

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