ROCK / Sugar, spice, all things nice: Zucchero - Hammersmith Apollo

IF YOU want to get a handle on Zucchero - and so far few people in this country have had time for the chubby Italian with the dandy hats, jewellery, and high-gloss R&B that hovers on the cusp of soul music - try thinking of him as the Italian Mick Hucknall. He sells albums by the million in the motherland, likes to flirt with gospel, and has played with Ray Charles . . . but there the similarity ends. Apart from his duet with Paul Young, 'Senza una donna', in 1991, Zucchero has never wooed the British market.

Unable to fill a string of stadiums as he can back home, he settled for a one-off London show to test the water. Judging by the crush of snazzy winter coats in the Apollo's foyer, he attracted mainly expatriate fans; but given that he sings mostly in Italian, this was not surprising. Still, even the few Brits in the audience had little problem recognising his first 'guest', Luciano Pavarotti.

Well, Pavarotti on film, projected 30 feet high over the stage curtain, conspicuously bonding with his pop music buddy while singing the latter's composition 'Miserere'. It's chorus 'Miserere, misero me, Pero brindo alla vita' ('Unhappy me, / And yet I celebrate life') was the first taste of the self-centred sentimentality which characterises most of his lyrics and takes some getting used to. In Zucchero's soul music sass, cleverness and cutting an attitude count for far less than sheer volume of feeling.

The curtain was whipped away to reveal the band: keyboards, drums, guitar, bass, two backing singers and two horns, and of course, the stout man in the purple hat on guitar. Things didn't bode well for the first few numbers, with the crowd sitting still while Edilmo 'Sugar' Fornaciari, looking like a youthful Blakey from On the Buses, strode around under surtitles, one of which read: 'This is a shout that goes up and down / From your ass-hole to your heart.' Covent Garden it wasn't.

Suddenly, however, the show bloomed like the thousands of sunflowers projected on to the backdrop. Zucchero strapped on his acoustic guitar and dropped the pace for 'It's Alright (The Promise)', a gorgeous ballad full of steely guitar and with a quietness that suited his voice perfectly. The crowd were up on their feet, and stayed there for the Springsteeny 'Come Back the Sun', the Pope-niggling rock track 'Miss Mary' and 'Orgia', a song whose chief feature its catchy refrain, 'Sesso, sesso, sesso' ('Sex, sex, sex'), which had the fans screaming along.

As the two-hour set progressed, Zucchero showed a talent for working the room by judicious arrangement of slow and pacy numbers that only the most experienced bands can manage. Even in the dull bits (the big blues bash where each instrument cancelled out the other) there was always a sense that change was imminent: a new image on the screen, an indulgent gospel solo, a guest artist.

Yes, that was Paul Young sheepishly entering stage left for 'Senza una donna'. Both singers sound like they have head colds at the best of times, so hearing them hit the heights together is never pleasant. Zucchero, at least, plays the pop star with aplomb. He had another half hour of belters to do while Paul slunk off. One wonders who did who a favour when they first got together.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'