To celebrate his remarkable 50-year career, Leo Sayer has embarked on a huge tour around the UK. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him, and he admitted that people have tried to put him off performing in Manchester because it is hard to sell tickets, but he did it anyway – and he blew the roof off Bridgewater Hall! I don’t recall seeing any spare seats in the stalls, so Sayer should be glad he ignored that advice (or lack thereof).
The concert opened very casually. There was no opening act. There was no big opening number. Instead, Sayer strolled onstage and just started talking. He wished us a happy Halloween and introduced his band.
It was quite refreshing to attend a concert with such a relaxed atmosphere. I was reminded of Cher‘s farewell tour. Now, that was obviously a huge production (it’s Cher, y’all), but before she was transported from the ceiling, she crept through the curtains and waved at her fans. Sayer and Cher know that they are legends; they don’t feel the need to prove themselves, and they certainly don’t take themselves too seriously.
Sayer’s opening song was his third single and first hit, ‘The Show Must Go On’ – the name of a tour. Opening the show with this song was a reminder that A) his music is still with us after all these years and B) he isn’t going anywhere. Indeed, whilst Cher recently bid adieu, Sayer told me this is an anniversary tour, not a farewell.
He next sang ‘One Man Band’, which allowed him to show off his dramatic side. As he sang the lyric about rain, and the sound of rain pouring flooded the speakers, he pretended to get wet.
After this, he had a dig at Donald Trump and the UK Conservative Party for being dishonest; he told us that in this current age of lying, he had to tell us the truth behind his next song, ‘Moonlighting’. Some in the audience laughed and even cheered whilst others stayed silent – some of them, bored of politics and frustrated that their evening of escapism had been politicised; others, Tories.
After singing a couple of lesser-known songs, Sayer showed off his harmonica skills at the beginning and end of ‘Raining in My Heart’ – an instrument he used regularly for the rest of the show. This was followed by his ‘Have You Ever Been in Love’, the little-known ‘Bedsitter Land’, ‘Orchard Road’, and ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You (Though I Try)’ – a sad but sweet end to the first act.
‘Have You Ever Been in Love’ (1982) and ‘Orchard Road’ (1983) were his last top 10 and top 20 hits, respectively, until he topped the charts in 2006 with ‘Thunder in My Heart Again’ – Meck‘s remix of Sayer’s ‘Thunder in My Heart’ (1977).
Sayer actually opened the second act with ‘Thunder in My Heart’, a wise decision, for it got the crowd going again after the mellow end of the first act and the relaxed interval.
After performing ‘More Than I Can Say’, a woman in the audience asked Sayer if he had gotten her note. He then picked it up off the stage floor and read it out. Apparently, Sayer and this lady, Dawn, had danced together 40 years ago, and she wanted another dance. Sayer came down and hugged her – and even posed for a photo with her, much to the security’s chagrin and concern. A male audience member then jokingly shouted out, “Can I have a kiss?” Ah, middle-aged male humour, eh?
Sayer then shifted the tone again, with two The Beatles covers: ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Across the Universe’. He admitted to being worried about performing them in Liverpool, especially because he has messed around with the songs – but he proudly proclaimed that one should be able to change songs if they please.
Sayer then brought the mood back up again (and got the audience on their feet) with his signature hit, ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’. If anybody in that audience didn’t feel like dancing, I don’t think they feel at all! Towards the end of the song, he leaned over and gripped the hand of an adoring fan and twirled her around.
The last three songs of the main act were ‘When I Need You’, ‘Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance)’, and ‘How Much Love’.
The encore was made up of two Roger Daltrey songs that a then-unknown Sayer had written for Daltrey’s debut studio album, Daltrey. The first was the little-known ‘It’s a Hard Life’, but Sayer followed it with ‘Giving It All Away’ (Daltrey’s dazzling debut single).
Whilst The Who were uber successful, Daltrey did not have much luck on the charts as a soloist – save for this spectacular song. Sayer has always loved it; he even covered it for his second studio album, alongside another track he wrote for Daltrey: ‘One Man Band’. I said that Sayer does not feel the need to prove himself, but he certainly wanted us to know that he is responsible for Daltrey’s only solo hit.
It is hard to believe that Leo Sayer is 74 years old. His voice has aged like fine wine; he even still hits a few of those high notes. He has so much energy, and that energy is infectious. The only Sayer song I knew before watching the concert was ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’. It is one of my all-time favourite songs, and I will go to gigs just to hear artists sing my favourite songs. But I left this gig appreciative of Sayer’s wider catalogue and undeniably artistry.
Leo Sayer is touring the UK with The Show Must Go On – 50th Anniversary Tour until November 12.