Gilbert O'Sullivan Philharmonic Hall

Source: Liverpool Echo

Writer: Peter Grant

Date: 05 Nov 2007

A SELL-OUT crowd was a fine illustration of just how much affection the city has for gentle, multi-talented Irishman Gilbert O’Sullivan.

The star of the Cains Liverpool Irish Festival told the loyal fans that he had, on numerous occasions, tried to play Liverpool but venues had always been fully booked. So it’s been six years since he has performed here – there was a gig at Southport in between – and he was clearly happy to have made it back.

What a faultless two-and-a-half hour show, he gave – with material culled from his first recordings to his amazing catalogue of hits from the 70s onwards. His classics now sit ably alongside his newer material, including work from his latest album, "A Scruff At Heart." The first set featured Gilbert with a string quartet. An inspired idea.

A backdrop video played early images of the Waterford-born, singer-songwriter who first appeared on the scene wearing a cloth cap and hobnail boots. That urchin appearance made him stand out, so much so that John Peel encouraged him because he was different.

Peel’s fellow Liverpudlian, Kenny Everett, loved O’Sullivan’s work, too. Now, in 2007, his hits – from "Nothing Rhymed" to We Will to the beautiful "Clair" – still receive rapturous applause After the interval his band joined him, along with the tour’s musical director Michael Parker and two female vocalists. And there was the return of the exquisite string quartet.

Gilbert told many anecdotes and explained how he came to write his songs. He did a Fats Domino blues-style number and a reggae version of "Why Oh Why Oh Why." The hit "Happiness Is Me And You", played with just an acoustic guitar accompaniment, was sublime.

His new album is full of his trademark puns and there are rockers as well as sensitive ballads. The thought-provoking song, "Taking Sides", is a prime example of his gift for not only melody, but lyrics.

The hits kept on coming from "Ooh-Wakka Doo Wakka Day" to "No Matter How I Try" and "Matrimony." "Alone Again (Naturally)" was followed by a thumping, rocking version of "Get Down" with Gilbert jumping on top of the piano. He is a brilliant craftsman.

Rating: 10/10

Thanks Pat Currie