[Live Review] YUSUF (Hunter Valley)

Roche Estate, Hunter Valley
Saturday 3 December, 2017 :

It was an intimate evening at Roche Estate on Saturday, as one of the hippie generation’s most prolific songwriters took to the stage to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first big hit ‘Matthew and Son’. With rain bucketing down on the poncho-clad punters and the stage strewn with West End station signs, the native Londoner took us on a journey from his boyhood spent listening to the Beatles above his parent’s café, scoring a record deal and his ultimate hiatus from the industry, to finding answers in converting to Islam.

We’d cover a lot of ground in the two-hour set, but it started in familiar territory with one of Yusuf’s biggest hits, ‘Wild World’. The fans sang along loudly as many still found their seats, and as if on cue the wild weather subsided, providing respite to the soaked crowd for most of the set.

Easing into the night, we were gifted a string of breezy and relaxed tracks from the first 10 years of Yusuf’s decades-spanning career, with a stripped back version of ‘67s ‘First Cut is the Deepest’ and ‘Here Comes My Baby’, ‘71s ‘The Wind’ and ‘Changes IV’ and ‘Oh Very Young’ from 1974’s Buddha and the Chocolate Box, all with Yusuf on guitar backed by a fabulous four-piece band including long-time collaborator Alun Davies, with whom he’s been playing alongside since the early ’70s.

‘Sad Lisa’ saw Yusuf sit down at the piano for the first time, much to the delight of the crowd, but it was the personal reflections throughout the night that really won over the fans. The big screens on either side of the stage lit up red and ‘Somewhere’ played loud over the crowd as Yusuf recalled his early obsession with the musical West Side Story and his childhood crush on Natalie Wood. He told us about the £8 guitar his father bought him when he discovered the Beatles before sitting down in a wingback chair at the back of the stage and putting a copy of Please Please Me on a turntable, blaring out ‘Twist and Shout’ and having a good old boogie. Next he shared the story of how he was picked up by a label, playing his first big hit ‘Matthew and Son’, throwing in a cheeky nod to the Tears for Fears track ‘Mad World’ – give them a listen back to back, they do sound quite similar. The reminiscing was wrapped up with a ripper cover of the rock ‘n’ roll classic, ‘Big Boss Man’, inspired by Yusuf’s experiences of feeling like a slave to his label execs.

As you’d expect with a performer as enduring as Yusuf, there was no shortage of hits throughout the night. Iconic tracks like ‘Moonshadow’ and ‘Father and Son’ both needed only a few picks or strums to signal a massive sing-a-long.

After a set of 20-odd tracks, the ‘Peace Train’ pulled up to the station and with dancing and clapping in the muddy aisles, the night came to a fittingly celebratory end. And as if this wasn’t enough, the band returned to the stage one last time for an encore of ‘Morning Has Broken’, ‘Another Saturday Night’ and ‘I Can’t Keep It In’.

A hit-filled evening and Yusuf’s generous on-stage nature made for a truly unforgettable performance. He may have gone by a few names in his lifetime, but his music and its message remain as timeless and as poignant as ever.

SET LIST

Wild World
First Cut is the Deepest
Here Comes My Baby
The Wind
Changes IV
Oh Very Young
Remember the Days of the Old School Yard
Sad Lisa
Miles from Nowhere
People Get Ready (The Impressions cover)
If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out
Matthew and Son
Big Boss Man (Jimmy Reed cover)
Where Do the Children Play?
Moonshadow
Ruby Love
Blackness of the Night
I’m On My Way
Here Comes the Song (The Beatles cover)
See What Love Did To Me
Father and Son
Peace Train

Encore

Morning Has Broken
Another Saturday Night
I Can’t Keep It In

Reviewer : Amelia Parrott
Image supplied

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