reviews Music David Soul The Green Room, London

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The Independent Culture
To the disappointment of millions - well, the hundred-odd there on Wednesday - David Soul did not enter the Green Room at the Cafe Royal by rolling over the top of a car bonnet or leaping across several tables brandishing a sizeable hand gun. He may have had a bullet belt full of hit singles, but surely most of the audience was there because of Starsky and Hutch. It should not be forgotten that in the Seventies which of the "rough and tough, but likeable and friendly" American cops you preferred was as important as which member of Take That you favour is to the present generation of teenagers.

In the first of many fireside chats, Soul himself acknowledged the enduring significance of the series, which has to answer for inflicting the wrap- around cardigan on the world. "I'm invariably asked the same two questions whether I've just come out of a deep freeze or not. I'll just give you the answers so you don't have to bother asking the questions. First of all, I was the blond one. And, second, I don't know where he is." Given his well-documented "colourful" history, Soul, dressed in a natty black suit over a pale T-shirt, looked in pretty good shape (although there is possibly scope for a 'tache rethink)

The same could not always be said of his voice, which he himself admitted when accepting a drink from a member of the audience was "a little scratchy tonight". Still, it was his first live singing outing for 13 years, and supported by a four-piece band and two backing vocalists, his passionate rendering of such songs as the harmlessly schmaltzy "Don't Give Up On Us, Baby" - all clenched fists and eyes - had the power to transport you back to the joys of the slow number at the end of the school disco.

In between the songs, however, Soul demonstrated vividly the dangers of over-exposure to Oprah Culture - the relentless urge to go all confessional in public. He wove the songs into the tapestry of his chequered life story and came up with some links to make you wince: "When it comes to waking up alone, that's the most difficult," he sighed, "but this time I'm Going in with My Eyes Open." He closed with "Silver Lady" - can you believe that song was No 1 for 14 weeks in 1977? - which was greeted with what John Lennon would have called the rattling of jewellery in the posh seats.

Towards the end, Soul had not quite dispelled the nagging doubt about the point of this comeback. Has he set a precedent? In 20 years' time, will we be crowding the ornate ruched-curtain Green Room to hear Robbie Coltrane run through some of Charles Aznavour's greatest hits? But as the well-manicured audience momentarily lost its gentility and bayed for an encore, some likely lad brought us back to our senses and reminded us why we were there by shouting out: "Where's Huggy Bear?"

n David Soul continues at the Green Room, Cafe Royal (0171-437 9090) to 28 Oct

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