Review by Andrew Manning, Images by Rich Ward
From humble beginnings in Sheffield a very modest individual by the name of Paul Carrack has forged a career spanning more than 40 years in the music business. He is quite possibly one of the most underrated singer/songwriters of our time. Having previously collaborated with pop/rock royalty including Sir Elton John, Ringo Starr and The Eagles. Also performing at Eric Clapton’s 70th birthday bash at Madison Square Garden and to a crowd of 250k in front of the Berlin Wall with Roger Waters. The day job for many years has been performing under his own name but back in the day he has been a member of Mike & the Mechanics, Roxy Music and Squeeze. Tonight is the first of two stops at the Symphony Hall Birmingham as part of the These Days UK tour.
Support for the evening provided an introduction to the delightful Grainne Duffy who hails from Castleblayney in Ireland. She took to the stage with just an acoustic guitar as accompaniment and made the most of the opportunity to showcase her considerable vocal talent. Sitting at stage front illuminated by a sole spotlight she took the appreciative audience through a selection of songs including’ Don’t You Want to Know’, ‘Open Arms’ and ‘Love Me Like a Man’. The acoustics allowed her husky voice to shine through beautifully and she is clearly influenced by the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow. A very talented individual who is trying to forge her way in the tough musical world and the performance will have gained her some new fans on the night. Highlights were the tracks ‘Home’ and ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’, the latter being an Etta James track that contained plenty of emotion and passion.
Wearing his trademark hat Paul Carrack joined his six piece band on stage for the main event of the evening. It was straight down to business with a couple of tracks from the Satisfy My Soul album namely ‘Make Your Mind Up’ and the title track. With a really tight band and a voice as smooth as velvet it is clear that those in attendance would not be disappointed. A self taught musician Carrack spends the evening hopping between guitar and keyboards as he provided a perfect interpretation of his many varied music styles. An eclectic mix of genres saw the music moving between blue eyed soul, pop, reggae and soft rock.
Introducing an audience to new songs can prove testing times for any musician but tonight’s quartet of tracks from the forthcoming album These Days, due to be released on 6th April, showed that if you have the ability to write quality music then you have nothing to fear. Highlights were the reggae influenced ‘These Days’ and ‘Life in a Bubble’. Both numbers felt like they had been in the set for many years and were warmly received.
Perched at his piano Carrack faultlessly played the soulful ballad ‘Eyes of Blue’. Instrumentation was to the fore during the middle of the next track ‘Better Than Nothing’. With strong contributions from Steve Beighton (saxophone) and Andy Staves (guitar). The icing on the cake here was Carrack adding texture with the sweet sounds of the Hammond organ.
An acoustic performance of four numbers from Carrack, son Jack Carrack (drums) and Jeremy Meek (bass) followed including ‘Walk in the Room ‘and ‘That’s All That Matters To Me’. The latter bringing one of the most emotional moments of the evening as Carrack sang about the worries he had when his daughter embarked on a six month trip to Asia. A real heartfelt moment that any parent could resonate with.
Squeeze’s debut hit in America ‘Tempted’ was up next. Apparently written by Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford in a cab on the way to Heathrow. This again showcased the soaring sound of the Hammond organ. ‘Bet Your Life’ developed into a type of jam band session akin to an evening with the Allman Brothers. Twin drummers Dean Duke and young Carrack providing the rhythm to link individual showcase moments for the other band members.
It was then onto the real crown jewels of the evening with ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’, previously performed by The Eagles. The Mike & the Mechanics classics ‘Living Years’ and ‘Over My Shoulder’. These were neatly sandwiched with the first Carrack written hit ‘How Long’ from 1975. By this stage everyone was on their feet celebrating some truly magical musical history.
A finely crafted performance from a band lead by Carrack who is still progressing as a musician/songwriter. There is still time to catch them on the current tour to see an understated individual who never gets the exposure he deserves.
Paul plays a second date at the Symphony Hall on Sunday 18th February.