City Hall, Newcastle Touring until 20 October
‘That song means a lot to me” says Cliff Richard, after new track Rise Up sees him insisting, “They’ll never take me down.”
It’s a solitary, oblique reference to the televised 2014 police raid on his Berkshire home over strongly denied alleged historic child abuse, which ended with dropped inquiries and a six-figure sum in damages from the BBC. Otherwise, this 60th anniversary tour returns the focus to the squeaky-clean pop phenomenon with No 1s in five consecutive decades, who at 77 is youthful enough for dance moves that would put most men his age in traction.
The two-hour performance traces a mercurial if at times bonkers trajectory from Move It’s “British Elvis” to later horrors such as The Millennium Prayer. Still, Living Doll (“I’m gonna lock you up in a trunk”) remains one of the cutest-creepiest hits ever, and a rocky Devil Woman seems to try and reposition him as black-metal pioneer.
However, a mixture of hit – not best – songs and covers from each era makes for a haywire setlist. Bright Eyes cues him up for a “Fart Garfunkel” joke, but blocks the way for missing gems from his own catalogue; he’s pushing it with two Christmas songs (a ghastly Mistletoe and Wine and the new Miracle of Love) in October. His voice defies time, but only Miss You Nights delves beneath a veneer of feeling.
The new songs bear as much relation to contemporary pop as a fish does to a bicycle, but there isn’t the late-career gravitas that did much for Johnny Cash and Tom Jones. The singer’s joke about the audience (“This is for anyone under 78”) rings truer. Still, whitehaired women rush the stage for a rock’n’roll medley, and 1979’s We Don’t Talk Anymore is so sublime he has to restart it (“I got too excited!”). He’s Sir Cliff, he is indestructible. Dave Simpson
Indestructible ... Cliff Richard