It’s my birthday next week and for my Birthday Treat we went to see Alexander O’Neal who is touring the UK at the moment. Who he? He is an American Soul singer one of the last men standing from the late eighties high-water mark when people like Luther Van Dross and Anita Baker ruled the musical world. Was never a massive fan but it seemed like a last-chance to see one of the original greats. What does he sing? Criticize is one of his songs; it was a big hit in the eighties. You can hear it here. His best song is called If You Were Here Tonight and there is a version here.
The Sage wasn’t full: 95% perhaps, quite respectable. He is 62. Overweight, looks 72 [or more] could be well on his way to a heart-attack. An all-black, all-American band behind him. No stringed instruments on stage, no piano, no wind instruments. Him; drums [solid, tight] percussion [competent but showy] three terrific backing singers [leather trousers + hand-movements] and four synth/keyboards. Four. Doing all the real work of course: strings, organ, kitchen sink. Good but not-outstanding lighting. Nothing no-one hasn’t seen a million times before. The mixing-board was right behind us and the Musical Director came down and stood behind them with his arms folded; but he didn’t say a word.
The audience was mainly around our age. Everyone but us seemed to know all the words. No black faces. I can remember going to see Millie Jackson in the late seventies and at least half the audience was black . . . all dressed in their finery . . . and then seeing Anita Baker at Wembley Arena 10000 people all three shows sold-out around ’86-87 when there was still a substantial black presence. But not now.
Good luck to him I suppose. There is still no more thrilling a sight than watching a great American band backing singers going full-throttle almost perfect sound quality you get in the Sage and a genuine warm, soulful voice fronting the whole thing.