Chris de Burgh, Royal Albert Hall, London
Friday 22 April 2011
Swaggering onto the stage sporting a buccaneer's waistcoat, Chris de Burgh initially looks like he watched his Pirates of the Caribbean DVDs a little too closely when penning his latest (and 18th) album – 2010's Moonfleet & Other Stories.
Barrels and netting adorn the band's instruments and the set starts with an unsettling War of the Worlds-esque narration, introducing the concept of De Burgh's latest work. Based on the 19th century novel Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner – featuring the infamous pirate Blackbeard – De Burgh's 24-track record sprang from his famous "love for telling stories", he tells the crowd.
The brief supernatural detour for "A Spaceman Came Travelling" and the "good verses evil" tale of "Spanish Train" showcase De Burgh's vocal talent for melody-backed storytelling – but also show the sea shanties don't quite match up to his previous work. The choruses of "Have a Care" ("Have a care, have a care/ T'was evilly come by and no good will you find there") and the whispered "Help me!" of "The Light on the Bay" makes the first half of the show (dedicated to the Moonfleet album) more West End musical theatre than pop concert staged by a man who has sold more than 45 million records. If backed by a mini-orchestra (the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra features on the record) the tales would have told a far more powerful story.
But all is forgiven after the interval, as De Burgh sheds his piratical attire for his more popular hits. The anti-war lyrics of "Borderline" strike a timely chord and receive a standing ovation, as does "People of the World", an inspirational freedom song dedicated to a young Iranian woman shot by a sniper at a demonstration in 2009. His most famous hit, 1986's "The Lady in Red", hits all the right notes with the crowd (even if it doesn't tonally) as de Burgh walks round the audience, hugging his fans and singing to the copious numbers of ladies dressed in scarlet.
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