Few sixties and seventies chart-toppers have kept their hair like Gilbert O’Sullivan - but far fewer still can boast the same vocal talents that made them stars.
Hearing that voice made it worthwhile for the Opera House audience to have given up the chance to spend Valentine’s night dining with loved ones, a sacrifice for which the Waterford-born song-writer thanked them early on. His allusion to Barry’s as the tea of choice on Leeside was never necessary to get this devoted audience on-side.
Backed by a tremendously talented — and mostly Irish — eight-piece band, it was in the quieter numbers from a back-catalogue spanning six decades that he shone. Nowhere more so than on songs like ‘We Will’, ‘You Are You’, and ‘Happiness is Me and You’ — one of the few selections in a two-hour set where he was not sat centre-stage at his keyboard, accompanied instead by just flute and guitar.
As he improvised ‘Happy Valentine’s Day to You’ into the lyrics, it was among many of the night’s 30 tracks where the background video of his flat-capped younger days was not needed to be reminded why he made it so big. With their eyes closed, audience members could have believed they were listening to a live recording from 40 years ago, so youthful was his voice on more laidback songs like that, or ‘Miss My Love Today’.
It was regrettable that those vocals were lost at times behind the band, particularly so in the early run-out of ‘Nothing Rhymed’, a piece of musical poetry which launched a fresh-faced O’Sullivan to stardom in 1970.
That aside, an audience who came to hear some of their favourite Gilbert O’Sullivan numbers were not left disappointed by ‘Clair’ and ‘Alone Again, Naturally’, which preceded the on-their-feet-clapping encore of ‘Matrimony’ and ‘Get Down’.
The even better news for those dedicated fans was the 70-year-old’s declaration that he looks forward to getting back to writing after this tour ends next month.
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