Date: 19 Feb 2011
There was a palpable wave of excitement undulating through York's Grand Opera House as Gilbert O'Sullivan wandered onto the stage – an electricity generated by the rubbing together of a love for good music and an unavoidable sense of nostalgia. But whilst most of the audience were, no doubt, looking forward to hearing the songs that had provided the soundtrack to their 1970s, one couldn't help but note the refreshing spectrum of age groups in the audience. From kids in their early teens to kids in the late seventies, Gilbert's audiences resemble a foot-tapping family reunion. Indeed, family means a lot to Gilbert. During the show he proudly announced that his daughters were in attendance and, when heckled with the line "Gilbert, I want your babies!", he retorted with "I'm sixty-bloody-four, I'm no Rod Stewart! And I have good wife too!"
As soon as Gilbert sat down at his piano and launched into Thunder and Lightning – a song from his first album, recorded exactly forty years ago – the party began, and with it, the obligatory clap-along. The curly-haired Gilbert, who's appearance hasn't much altered since the mid-1970s, was backed by a mighty 8-piece band and a delicious string quartet, prompting a number of audible exclamations of delight from the crowd. Whilst a number of Gilbert's albums have benefited from a stripped-down, piano/vocal approach, his best work has employed bands, string quartets and orchestras to flaunt the exquisite melodies of this great songwriter. Nothing Rhymed sounded as fresh as the day it was recorded, as did Out of the Question, No Matter How I Try and We Will, to name just a few.