Pop: The wild man of marriage counselling

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The Independent Culture


AS THE son of the late jazz trumpeter Don and brother of Neneh, Eagle-Eye Cherry has every reason to be pleased with himself. His distinguished surname and mellifluous voice got him an instant record deal and immediate artistic credibility, while his pouting lips and prominent cheekbones earn maximum pin-up points.

At Thursday night's show he expressed what appeared to be genuine awe at his success and, in true nice-guy style, mumbled what a privilege it was to be playing in England.

A late starter at 27, Cherry has not succumbed to the temptations of rap like his anarchic sister. Judging by the turn-out at the concert, his benevolent blend of soul and folk-rock has captured a maturer audience, predominantly hugging couples for whom the evening might have been a toss-up between the gig and a romantic dinner for two.

Cherry's unruly hair and ragamuffin chic do little to dispel the notion that he is as clean as they come. His earnestness is heightened by continually upturned eyebrows and puppy-dog eyes that make the Lighthouse Family look like the spawn of Satan.

His tortured yet tuneful songs relate feelings of betrayal and separation and are delivered with all the anguish of a therapy-group confession. Poor lamb. It was all the crowd could do not to run up to the stage and hug him.

As well as his own acoustic guitar, Cherry came equipped with three more guitarists, a drummer and an impressive-looking percussion section that was shamefully under-used and mostly stared into the middle distance, nodding slowly.

The odd guitar solo, underpinned by some keyboards from Cherry, offered glimpses of animation. "Indecision", a pleasingly chaotic song about a man with homicidal tendencies, displayed a few more gutsy guitar riffs and elicited the odd rock-star leap from Cherry, though the joyful abandon was quickly tempered by the agonised sentiments of "Shooting up In Vain". As Cherry launched into his chart hit "Save Tonight" the dewy-eyed crowd recited the song faultlessly, leaving the singer's honeyed voice barely audible. Yet again, couples embraced and individuals smiled beatifically.

Cherry may not be breaking any musical boundaries with his soft-centred melodies but with concerts like this, he will be repairing broken relationships all over the country.