Cliff Richard and the Shadows, O2 Arena, London
Thursday 01 October 2009
People forget we were a rock'n'roll band and we still are," Cliff maintains. Tonight, it appears it's only rock'n'roll, and, well, Sir Cliff likes it.
Harry Roger Webb has been mocked in some quarters (many quarters) for a considerable time and for many reasons – his Christianity, his fashion choices, his sexual ambivalence, his hanging around Wimbledon like a bad drop volley, his absurd video to "Devil Woman" – but the O2 Arena has nothing but respect for the Peter Pan of Pop, and Hank Marvin's immaculate, crisp- sounding Shadows lend the trim 68-year-old showman a respectability he hasn't achieved for aeons.
The generous 41-song set is devoted to early Cliff and the Shadows. They tear through "We Say Yeah", "A Girl Like You", "I'm the Lonely One" and the unfortunately titled "Willie and the Hand Jive". We're not treated, thank the sweet lord, to the creepy turgidity of "Mistletoe and Wine" and the "Millennium Prayer" – the sort of ditties they'd lull you with in "The Wicker Man" before constructing a pagan structure and burning your petrified flesh – or the soft Seventies rock of "Devil Woman", "Wired for Sound" or "We Don't Talk Anymore", all perfectly serviceable pop camembert. In fact, it's an irony-free night of rock'n'roll tunes that harks back to Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly. Cliff, of course, started his career being compared to Elvis Presley, he was sold as "dangerous", he looked like a singing Dirk Bogarde and sang snarling rock songs like "Mean Streak". However, Cliff's fifth single, the slightly disturbing "Living Doll" ("I'm gonna lock her up in a trunk/ So no big hunk can steal her away from me") heralded a "softer" side to Cliff, a side he's clung on to and exploited for nearly 50 years.
This tour, the final one for Cliff and his Shadows, appears to be a worthy attempt to reclaim the rockabilly in Richard. The audience are restrained, enthusiastic but save for a group who don sailor hats for "Sea Cruise" not evangelical or obsessed. Oh my lord, I've been converted. Even the terrifically annoying "Summer Holiday" is bearable as is the horribly prescient "Bachelor Boy".
Cliff's committed too many crimes to music to completely convert you, but this simple rock'n'roll show is blessed by the presence of the Shadows (Marvin, Bruce Welch and Brian Bennett) and the absence of all the usual nonsense associated with Richard. He's forgiven.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food