Mercurial Gilbert O’Sullivan must surely be among Ireland’s greatest ever exports, seated on a gold-tinted perch just above Kerrygold and Jameson.
Not surprisingly, this capacity Opera House audience knew every word of classic hits like ‘Nothing Rhymed’, ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’, ‘Matrimony’, ‘What’s In A Kiss’ and ‘Clair’, and encore gem ‘Get Down (‘You’re a bad dog, baby’)’.
This tour, however, is no trip down memory lane. At 68, Gilbert is promoting Latin ala G, the energetic dance album he released on Monday, and which could become one of popular music’s all-time great comeback stories.
Have no doubt, Gilbert is at the top of his game. He’s back with ‘dial-a-hit’ tunes and trademark wry lyrics (“I may look like a man who at times/can’t tell his beer from his wines”), so don’t be surprised if Latin ala G comes to dominate every samba dance class from here to Rio.
This audience also loved his new ballad, ‘I Guess I’ll Always Love You’, in which Gilbert looks over his shoulder, exchanging lines with his hugely talented backing vocalists.
The Opera House is a great setting for Gilbert’s showmanship. He ably deals with a well-meaning heckler, dances on the piano, and tells tales of hanging around at the Grammys in 1973, with Don McLean — when Harry Nilsson’s ‘Without You’ won best pop male ahead of ‘Nothing Rhymed’ and ‘American Pie’.
Even a few false starts turn into giggles rather than the tension that errors can create between crankier artists and their bands. There is also something theatrical about the respect Gilbert shows to guitarist, Bill Shanley, during his nylon string solos, on songs like ‘Happiness Is Me And You’.
And the Waterford-born star shows equal respect when introducing his incredible eight-piece band, one by one, apologising for having to read from a page, rather than knowing their pocket biogs by heart. “When you’re 68 yourselves, you’ll see it’s hard to remember everything,” he tells the audience.
Well, Gilbert, if we remember nothing else when we’re 68, we’ll certainly remember this show.