POP / Reviews: Bland bombshell: Chris de Burgh, Royal Albert Hall

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The Independent Online
If there's one thing guaranteed to plant the kiss of death on your street cred, it's the royal seal of approval. Chris de Burgh was never the heppest cat in rock, but the moment that Andy and Fergie were said to adore 'The Lady in Red' (they even took his album Into the Light on their honeymoon), he instantly became The Man With No Cred.

Not that the audience for his show at the Albert Hall on Tuesday seemed to mind much. The bar beforehand was like a Samsonite sales convention with smart-suited execs who'd obviously sneaked away early from work clutching briefcases to their chests. As the evening wore on, the jackets came off and the ties were discreetly loosened.

After separating me from pounds 6 on the way in, the programme- seller smiled and said, 'Enjoy your evening, won't you.' The whole occasion was marked by this impeccable sense of politeness. A considerate notice was posted on the entrance warning that the show would feature strobe lights. Coupons on every seat respectfully invited you to phone 'The C de B Hotline' or get a free photo of the singer from Heidi Bradshaw of the Fan Association in North Cheam. De Burgh himself, blokily got up in a Chris Waddle 1988 vintage haircut, white T-shirt, black slacks and white shoes, spent the entire show thanking us all and ended by beaming: 'I feel as if I've been singing among friends here tonight.' Hey, wild man.

After one solo, De Burgh appeared almost to chide us for our politesse - 'You're in good voice tonight, if a little quiet' - before a man nearby put him right: 'No, we're just old.'

You would hesitate to describe it as music for people who don't like music, but De Burgh's are still songs you might feel embarrassed to be found humming in the bath. They're not offensive, just overwhelmingly bland, the sort of anthems familiar from years spent listening to Capital Gold: 'Ship to Shore', 'Borderline', 'A Spaceman Came Travelling', 'Missing You', 'Don't Pay the Ferryman', 'Patricia the Stripper' (which De Burgh - ever the showman - first pretended was too politically incorrect to play these days and then hammed up with two bras).

Driven along by standard-issue session musicians in Rudi Voller perms, white T-shirts and black waistcoats, De Burgh skipped rather uneasily about the stage - a massive raked honeycomb affair backed by the now obligatory screen showing images of rural tranquillity (equals good) and barbed wire (equals bad). At one point, he air- guitared beside the lead guitarist - even though De Burgh already had a real one strapped on.

Despite a light-show that Nasa would have been proud of, and enough dry ice to fill a Hammer horror film, the audience had to be invited to come to the front. Couples danced self-consciously in the boxes during 'Lady in Red' (so much De Burgh's signature tune that some tabloids are rumoured to have doctored pictures of his nanny - and alleged lover - so that her blue clothes appeared red). But the excitement reached its highest point during 'Say Goodbye' when a trio of women in cardies near me went through a windmilling-arm routine that looked like it might have been rehearsed, a la Wham], in a Bushey Park front-room.

With people streaming towards the exits to relieve the babysitter, De Burgh closed with 'High on Emotion'. On the evidence of Tuesday's audience, perhaps a better title would be 'Mildly Flushed on Emotion'.

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