Roachford: O2 Academy ★★★★✩
It’s not an understatement to say Roachford has been the soundtrack of much of my adult life. I found love? He released a single about it. I went through heartache? He did too, it seems.
And looking around the several hundred people of “a certain age” at Bristol’s O2 Academy on Saturday night, apparently I’m not the only one.
Andrew Roachford, the driving force behind his eponymous band that hit the big time in 1989 with the hit Cuddly Toy, is now 57 and has lost nothing.
He parted company with his group two decades ago to go solo, followed by several years with Mike and the Mechanics, but he’s back in his rightful place, touring his own material again with a new-look four-piece.
A gifted musician, songwriter and natural showman, he had us in the palm of his hands the moment he sat down to his Yamaha keyboard and blasted out little-known 2011 album track The Doctor.
That was followed by the joyous High On Love, from his latest album Twice in a Lifetime – Roachford’s first original studio offering since 2013 – which is as good as anything he’s ever released.
The flow of the set list is clearly crucial to the artist, with more recent recordings interspersed neatly with much-loved classics like The Way I Feel and a swingtime, boogie-woogie cover of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine (Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark even made a fleeting appearance).
About halfway through I
realised he hadn’t played anything from his best LP by far – Permanent Shade of Blue which was the creative peak of both his career (current output runs a close second) and of mid-1990s British bluesy-pop.
And then, after dedicating 2020 single Love Remedy to his late brother, manager and tour guitarist Stephen, came a barnstorming rendition of that 1994 album’s (sort-of) title track, Ride The Storm, followed immediately by its stablemates Lay Your Love on Me, This Generation and Cry For Me.
A pared-back solo section with Andrew on keyboards rattling through a medley including Kathleen, Family Man and Over My Shoulder (a nod to his time with the Mechanics), showcased the
man’s effortless, timeless, soulful vocals.
And the set came to an end with current single Better, which I’d suggest should be knocking on the UK’s Eurovision door (that’s a compliment), and popular crowdpleasers Cuddly Toy and Only To Be With You, the finale being the opening track on Permanent Shade of Blue.
A quick nod also to support act President Street, an Australian duo bearing a striking resemblance to Sophie EllisBextor backed by Jeff Goldblum.
They’re clearly headed for big things with an accomplished and versatile range of catchy numbers from synth dance and Get Luckyesque disco to drum ‘n’ bass and acoustic guitar.