Cliff Richard wins over cynics and leaves his audience in tears
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
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-
Sir Cliff Richard at the London Studios in South London.