We made a field trip to Brighton to see Rick Astley on his UK leg of The Best of Me greatest hits tour. Although postponed, like everything else in the last 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brighton Centre filled up with his patient fans who were eager to see Rick perform his best songs finally.
The show was supported by KT Tunstall, who performed a 45 minute set on acoustic guitar, mixed perfectly with rhythm loops created ad-hoc at the beginning of each song. Kate got excellent feedback on the carefully selected repertoire, which was a perfect introduction to what was to follow. The atmosphere in the venue remained unbelievably joyful throughout the intermission; the entire audience did a complete sing-along to "Sweet Caroline", which was blasting from the speakers just moments before the main event of the evening.
Rick Astley appeared on stage alone. Illuminated by bright floodlights, he greeted the audience with a slow acapella snippet of "Never Gonna Give You Up" while the band took the stage; it was the beginning of a hundred minute trip down memory lane. Following the old tradition of entertainment shows, Rick and his six-piece outfit delivered a well-rehearsed and thought out performance covering a long and fruitful career that started 30-odd years ago. And just like good wine, Rick's songs got even better with time; their updated live arrangements sound fresh and exciting.
Even though the show was a seated event, everyone was already on their feet with the first notes of "Keep Singing". The atmosphere soon became even more heated; the crowd was rocking, swinging and singing to hits like "She Wants To Dance With Me" and "It Would Take A Strong Strong Man". The exception was made for "Hold Me In Your Arms" when Rick asked the audience to have a rest because some of them were "the same age as him"; he surprisingly delivered that song sitting because he was, as he said, "knackered".
During the concert, Rick frequently shared anecdotes and jokes, which gave the show a Las Vegas vibe. A Rick Astley show is a fantastic opportunity to witness his many talents, especially if you've never dived deeper than his 80s hits; Rick is a great vocalist who can convey emotions to his fans sincerely and intimately. His interpretation of the timeless classic "When I Fall In Love" left us breathless. While the band performed with subtle precision, Rick's delivery was flawless and very touching. A similar atmosphere was attained during "Cry For Help". It was a true joy to hear Rick sing it live with a bit of help from his fantastic backing vocalists. They managed almost wholly to replicate the recorded version.
Rick shows appreciation for his musical influences by including covers to his setlists or adding them to his own songs' arrangements, so don't be surprised if you hear Chic's "Good Times" halfway through "Whenever You Need Somebody". No AC/DC this time around, though. Rick didn't forget to thank everyone who had worked tirelessly from the early hours of the day to make the show happen, and even a special "Happy Birthday" to one of the road crew occurred on the stage spontaneously. The show had great visuals combining images and textual content, making the experience even richer.
After concluding the regular portion of the show with "Try", the band returned to play two additional songs, "Angels on My Side" and "Never Gonna Give You Up". Rick introduced each member of the band by giving them a moment in the spotlight to demonstrate the quality of their craft. With the show's conclusion and several bows taken by the band, they called it a night.
Rick Astley is an excellent singer, songwriter, and a great entertainer who continues to impress the old fans and attract new ones. He's a diverse, multifaceted and utterly talented artist who embraces the songs that made him famous and continuously reinvents himself. We believe his work has never been more relevant, and we're sure we'll be hearing more from him; he has so much to give to the world of music. If this tour is coming your way, do yourself a favour and go out for the evening, you will be glad you did.
Rick Astley setlist: 1. Never Gonna Give You Up, 2. Keep Singing, 3. Together Forever, 4. Beautiful Life, 5. She Wants To Dance With Me, 6. This Old House, 7. It Would Take a Strong Strong Man, 8. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg (The Temptations cover), 9. Hold Me In Your Arms, 10. Lights Out, 11. When I Fall In Love (Victor Young/Edward Heyman cover), 12. Watermelon Sugar (Harry Styles cover), 13. Pray With Me, 14. Cry For Help, 15. Unwanted, 16. Dance, 17. Whenever You Need Somebody, 18. Try Encore: 19. Angels On My Side, 20. Never Gonna Give You Up