As the band started up the star of the show danced his way onto the stage with a cream suit that complemented his tied back dreads. Opening with a bouncy ‘Are You Ready’, his voice sounded surprisingly rich. He sparred with the backing singers (who included his daughter Cherie and former Raw Stylus vocalist Donna Gardier clearly having a ball) on a few lesser known but well-received slower numbers before stopping for a welcome chat that highlighted his religious leanings.
‘Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)’ stepped up the pace with the funky drums and slick bass work allowing Billy to show off his dance moves. ‘The Colour Of Love’ was a classic old-school end-of-the-night smoocher complete with sultry sax. As the applause died down someone shouted for more dance songs then, in an instant, the band kicked into Billy’s first major hit, ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ and the audience were on their feet, singing along.
‘No Woman, No Cry’, from his latest hits and covers album was given a gospel flavour, his body doubling over to squeeze out every last inch of breath to power his delivery. Throughout the show he displayed a cool and calm approach. Nothing flashy, just measured and professional, taking the crowd’s adoration in his stride.
With the stage bathed in red everyone got back on their feet for the often-overlooked Northern Soul-flavoured ‘Red Light Spells Danger’, which on the night sounded like a funky mash up of Frankie Valli’s ‘The Night’ and Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’.
‘Stay The Night’ was a salsa-fied dancer with percussion breaks and ‘Suddenly’ was stripped back to showcase the vocals. It was full-on party mode for the rest of the show with disco lights and robotics for ‘Loverboy’, “beep beep oh yeahs” for ‘Get Outta My Dreams’ and finally the irresistible pop perfection of ‘When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going’.
The first encore wasn’t expected; a rousing version of The Moody Blues’ ‘A Simple Game’ from the new album that worked really well. Following a long introduction, inviting us to go somewhere warm and sunny with plenty of rum to drink, the night ended with ‘Caribbean Queen’. This was a hit-filled set by a star with a set of pipes still capable of a knockout delivery. We went home happy with a head full of earworms.
Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Monday 24th April 2017
Words by Steve Clements
Photos by Gili Dailes