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16th May 2023

Live review: Billy Ocean @ Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

The legendary Billy Ocean performs a plethora of hits like ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ and ‘When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going’ for a Manchester audience.
Live review: Billy Ocean @ Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Photo: Katie Bray @ The Mancunion

After a long successful career, legendary singer-songwriter Billy Ocean has finally graced Manchester with a night of liveliness, soulful sing-song and a contagious surge of energy. The 73 year-old singer, best known for countless chart-topping hits like ‘Red Light Spells Danger’, ‘Suddenly’ and ‘Caribbean Queen’, stopped at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester as apart of his UK tour, celebrating his music- both new and old- after releasing his album ‘One World’ in 2020.

His music has always had an indescribable air of soulfulness, even in the more energetic anthems such as ‘When the Going Get’s Tough’, thus it came as no surprise to find the venue packed out with excited fans screaming as Billy Ocean arrived on stage and singing and clapping along to his classics with constant standing ovations. Ranging from disco and soul to reggae and pop, his songs are the epitome of great 70s and 80s music and continue to inspire generations and draw in crowds alike.

Supporting the legend, was talented vocalist Anthonia Edwards, the winner of The Voice 2022 and a perfect accompaniment that managed to both entertain and energise the crowd with her sensational singing and a gorgeous cover of a Whitney Houston classic.

Kicking off the show with his most recent album’s titular ‘One World’,  the toe-tapping beat and communal backing vocals united the audience as they rose to their feet in shared enthusiasm. The song focuses on importance of a shared community and love and whilst its rhythm isn’t as swinging, nor are the lyrics as complex as some of his larger hits, it offers a message of pure joy and hope.

Highlighting his talents, he smoothly transitioned into one of his most significant and heartfelt songs, the whole audience screamed once again as the classic piano notes and percussion built into ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’. A longingly exploring unrequited love between a man who chases after a woman who gives her love away frivolously- an ironically brilliant piece to say it was created in his experimentations on a £23 piano. The lights lift and become more energetic and erratic with abstract sun-like shapes and a mixture of colours emanating around the stage. With a killer saxophonist, and acclaimed bassists, guitarists, a trio of backing vocalists, drummers, and keyboardists, he delivered the song with an enchanting ease and undying energy, mingling with his audience and  encouraging the audience to sing or clap along. This sense of community between his fans and the band was constantly displayed and highlighted Ocean’s enjoyment of the stage environment as he thrived with his fans while hitting spectacular notes with his voice and adding new twists and extensions to each piece.

Next up was the funky ‘Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)’ and the unforgettable heartthrob power ballads: ‘There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)’ and ‘Love Zone’, performed with as much care and enthusiasm as when it was first recorded, with equally soulful backing vocals edging through.

Then starts another standing ovation as the crowd rises from their seats and dances and sways uncontrollably, chanting along to a mighty ‘hey you get into my car’ as the classic ‘Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car’ is played. With a campy 1980s electronic vibe its one of the most unforgettable earworms ever created and inspires that feeling of uncontrollable dance comparable to the nostalgic and energetic rhythms present in movies like Footloose and Grease.

Later he bursts into ‘The Colour of Love’ and (a personal favourite) ‘Red Light Spells Danger’ accompanied by popping red lights. The latter song’s rhythm builds from a simple keyboard and percussion combination but thickens and speeds up in such a contagiously energetic way that most of the audience were joined in headbanging and arm-swinging as Ocean busted moves groovily across the stage as he did with the later flirtatious hit ‘Mystery’.

After this came a refreshing cover of Bob Marley‘s reggae hit ‘No Woman, No Cry’ to re-energise and loosen up the crowd once more as they again united in chant- something I have never seen so frequently or powerfully  in one artist’s concert. Indeed, his encouragement of audience chants through leaning the microphone into the audience or teaching them the words enhanced the overall immersion and intractability. Then was the more rocky guitar heavy ‘Loverboy’  before a return to the swinging rhythms of ‘When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going’.

Finally, after exiting the stage, the lights turned down and the audience rumbling and screaming his name for an encore, he returned once more to perform a band dedication freestyling song and ‘Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)’- another funky disco beat perfectly encapsulating that contagiousness and energy of the 1980s sound and even featured in movies like  and Miami Vice. After another long applause, Ocean left the stage for a final time, leaving the band finishing the last few notes of the song.
After so many years in show-business Billy Ocean still has a vocal talent, energy and enthusiasm that makes him seem at ease on stage. Despite a roaring audience, he’s constantly calm… soaking in the audience around him… exchanging smiles, hand shakes and laughter, and delivering an unforgettable performance once more.

Billy Ocean will be touring various locations across the UK until 9th September, and you can stream  Billy Ocean’s music on at: Billy Ocean | Spotify.

Why not stream Anthonia Edwards’ music too, at: Anthonia Edwards | Spotify.

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