Gilbert O'Sullivan @ Opera House

Source: Manchester Evening News

Writer: Paul Taylor

Date: 07 Nov 2007

IF Gilbert O'íSullivan had given the world only one song, "Nothing Rhymed", he would have done his pop duty.  Such an eloquent, maudlin little hymn of bewilderment is it that even that maestro of misery Morrissey has been known to cover it in concert.

At the Opera House, the tear-inducing potential of the song was turbo-charged as a screen flashed up images of O'Sullivan in his early 1970s heyday, sporting pudding basin haircut and the grey shabby garb of a pre-war Hovis delivery boy.  A largely fiftyish audience mused that matrimony had come and gone, waistlines advanced and hairlines retreated since those days. All, that is, except for O'Sullivan himself, still boasting an unfeasibly lush thatch of hair and a frame so lithe he still seems, at 60, to be wearing a big brotherís hand-me-downs.

There is not exactly a comeback underway here.  O'Sullivan never really went away.  But there is a process of rediscovery, and the fansí revived ardour burns bright.  One pair had travelled all the way from Osaka, Japan, for this two hours-plus show.

What they got was the good and bad of this quirky performer.  The good? We Will remains a peerless exercise in spinning emotion from the mundane.  "Happiness Is Me And You" brushed up very presentably to an accompaniment of Spanish guitar, bass and latin percussion.  "No Mattter How I Try" still bounces along infectiously.  And OíSullivan can still write a good heart-warming song, witness "I'm In Love with Love (Again)" from his latest album, "A Scruff At Heart."


The bad? "Ooh-Wakka-Doo-Wakka-Day" is timelessly gruesome, though O'Sullivan evidently hasnít yet realised it and is well capable of penning a stinker of equally wince-making proportions, witness the punningly horrendous new song "You Canít Con-Crete."  Ouch!  Between the good and the bad is the kitsch Ė "Get Down", "Matrimony" and perhaps best of all "Clair."  This gooey song of  avuncular love for an infant girl Ė illustrated with period footage of Gilbert and said Clair gambolling in a garden - shows perhaps best of all how tastes have changed since 1972.  In a more cynical age, some would, sadly, consider the whole thing vaguely sinister.

The first half of the show was mainly O'Sullivan accompanied by a string quartet, the second a full band affair which, though it gave us a more urbane brand of pop was ultimately less satisfying.  The high point inevitably, was "Alone Again (Naturally)."  Here is an enduringly beautiful song which manages to take the experiences of being orphaned, jilted at the altar and brought to the point of suicide, and wrap them in the sweetest of melodies.  Surely itís only a matter of time before Mozzer has a crack at that one too.

The paper gave the right of reply to fans who attended the concert.  My friend Lorraine contributed the following:

This was a fabulous and very polished show.  The first half consisted mainly of new material taken from his latest CD "A Scruff at Heart" plus the wonderful sound of "Nothing Rhymed." The second half was more up tempo featuring album favourites such as "Thunder and Lightening"; the final song before the encore "Alone Again" got a raptuous applause.  The encore saw Gilbert return to perform "Matrimony" and then the climax of the show "Get Down." By this time Gibert was standing up on his piano and fans rocking in the aisles.  His band of three plus a string quartet and backing vocals provided the perfect recipe for what was a great performance. Gilbert will be 61 next month - long may he continue writing and performing!

Lorraine Andrews, Hyde

8/11/2007 at 17:27

He sung "Ooh-Wakka-Doo-Wakka-Day" at the request of his Irish and Liverpudlian fans as this song had not been performed on previous tours.

Lorraine Andrews, Hyde

8/11/2007 at 17:29