Rick Astley may have retired in the early 90s; but the popular resurgence that he has found during the last two years has been nothing short of outstanding. Some may put it down to the internet craze of Rick-rolling and good old nostalgia, but his last two releases 50 and Beautiful Life have proven to be mature, soulful albums which stand out all on their own.
Before Astley and his band even took to the stage in Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena, there were smiles arena-wide from an audience of all ages for R&B sensation Gabrielle’s support set. Performing a mixture of both new and old tracks alike, Gabrielle and her flawless backing band certainly got everyone excited and ready for the headline act.
As this is part of the Beautiful Life tour, we were eased into Astley’s set with Try; which is a laid-back track from his album of the same name. This mellow feeling did not last long though, as Rick and his band soon had audience members up and dancing with the next few songs This Old House and Together Forever.
Regardless of whether Astley and his band were performing older tracks or newer material, the show was a triumph of both brilliant musicianship and strong, soulful vocals; and this was particularly prominent during Keep Singing, Angels On My Side and the beautiful Last Night On Earth. We were also treated to some particularly powerful vocals from his backing singers during Cry For Help, which was one of my favourite tracks of the entire night.
Although it was a sophisticated and sleek show, there were lighthearted and fun moments throughout; especially when Rick and the band got a little bit carried away with the disco vibe during She Wants To Dance With Me and merged it into a bizarre cover of Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Another particularly funny moment came during their George Ezra’s Shotgun/ Paul Simon’s Call Me Al mash up; in which Rick ended up getting the keyboardist to sing some of it.
Shivers was the perfect closer to the set with its Imagine Dragons-inspired vibes bringing the night to an end on a perfect high; but of course this was not the actual end, as Rick and his band returned for the expected encore. Rise and Dance once again got the audience back on their feet for the last part of the night, when it ended on fan-favourite Never Gonna Give You Up.