Cliff Richard wins over cyn­ics and leaves his au­di­ence in tears

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CULTURE - By TRIS­TRAM FANE SAUN­DERS

Every­body has a sum­mer hol­i­day. This was mine. I ar­rived as a cyn­i­cal, 24-year-old hip­ster, ready to jeer at the prince of cheese and his bluerinsed fol­low­ers. I left as a Cliff con­vert.

Framed by the el­e­gant white pil­lars of the Old Royal Naval Col­lege, the sun set­ting on the Lon­don sky­line be­hind him, Cliff Richard gave his fans ev­ery­thing they wanted.

He sang, he smiled, he wag­gled his 76-year-old rump in a pair of tight gold trousers. Richard be­gan with his lat­est sin­gle (his 146 th, if you’re count­ing), It’s Gonna Be Okay. It was more than OK. Green­wich Mu­sic Time, the last week­end of his tour, was a joy­ous af­fir­ma­tion of pop’s power to charm, up­lift and con­sole.

Each gen­er­a­tion of fan had their Cliff. The Eight­ies crowd stood up for the power-pop of 1981’s Wired for Sound. Those who re­mem­bered his band the Drifters be­fore they be­came The Shad­ows were on their feet for his Fifties de­but, Move It. And every­one, a lit­tle oddly, gave a stand­ing ova­tion to a cover of Bobby Darin’s cheeky 1961 nov­elty hit Mul­ti­pli­ca­tion.

The woman sat next to me had come all the way from Chor­ley, Lan­cashire. Like many in the crowd, this was not her first night with Cliff. While her hus­band en­joyed a pub­crawl a few streets away, she qui­etly mouthed along to ev­ery word of Ocean Deep, hands clasped tight in ex­cite­ment.

Few per­form­ers are so com­pletely at one with their au­di­ence. They give him de­vo­tion, and he re­pays them with warmth and in­ti­macy. Richard has had, in his words, “a rough 22 months” — his only ref­er­ence to his long bat­tle to clear his name, fol­low­ing a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his­tor­i­cal sex abuse claims that was fi­nally dropped last year. Sound­ing al­most non­cha­lant, with his usual self-dep­re­cat­ing smile, he told the crowd how he had spent those months cry­ing him­self to sleep, night after night, pray­ing for a sin­gle kind word from God. And then he heard Robin Gibb’s song Don’t Cry Alone, and felt as if his prayers had been an­swered. His own ver­sion left more than one au­di­ence mem­ber in tears.

To lis­ten­ers my age — “the young ones” — Richard can seem like Stone­henge: some­thing an­cient and in­ex­pli­ca­ble, faintly ab­surd, its ori­gins long since for­got­ten, yet still draw­ing huge crowds. He is older than Vince Ca­ble. He is older than duct tape. And yet, if this show was any­thing to go by, he will out­last us all. Con­grat­u­la­tions, and ju­bi­la­tions, on an un­for­get­table night.

per­forms dur­ing film­ing of the

Gra­hamNor­tonShow

Pro­file: Cliff Richard

Born: Oct 14, 1940 (age 76) Birth name: Harry Rodger Webb Early years: The young Harry was born in In­dia, but the fam­ily moved to Eng­land in 1948 Early ca­reer: At the age of 18, Harry be­came “Cliff” and start­ing per-

DO­MINIC LIP­IN­SKI / PRESS AS­SO­CI­A­TION IM­AGES

Sir Cliff Richard at the Lon­don Stu­dios in South Lon­don.

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