The Royal Naval College, Greenwich, is home to the palace where Shakespeare once performed for Elizabeth I, but last night this historic and stunning venue was home to another outstanding performance as Sir Cliff Richard wowed the biggest crowd of his Just Fabulous Rock ‘n’ Roll tour with songs spanning seven decades.
Before Cliff took to the stage with his five musicians and vocalists, his supporting act, Collabro, enchanted the audience with their beautiful and perfect harmonies. For fans of musical theatre, listening to this talented four-piece is a must. They kicked off with This is the Moment from Jeckyll and Hyde, hooking the crowd from the start. Next was the turn of Les Miserables, with Bring Him Home and I Dreamed a Dream. A Just Fabulous performance of Sinatra’s That’s Life was followed by their first original song, Lighthouse, which they co-wrote with former member of A1, Ben Adams. We were then taken back to the song that started it all and led to them winning Britain’s Got Talent back in 2014: their powerful performance of Stars was breathtaking. Their last track, December 1963 (Oh What A Night), really got the party started and the crowd up on their feet as we saw a rare glimpse of the boys showing off their dance moves. They said that it was an ‘honour of a lifetime’ to be supporting Cliff, and I certainly felt honoured to have listened to such an amazing talent.
Oh What A Night it had already been, and this was only the start of it! During their performance, Collabro asked the crowd to become honorary ‘Collaborators’ for the night – the name given their fans. But it was clear that during the show they went from honorary to fully-fledged, with masses gathering to buy their new album, Home, which the boys then signed. No doubt that many will also be buying tickets for their 2017 tour later this year (http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Collabro-tickets/artist/2008016).
At 8.45pm, Sir Cliff himself entered the stage and gave an energetic performance of It’s Gonna Be Okay, a song from American band The Piano Guys that he features on. Next came Stronger Than That, in which it struck me that the lyrics to a song written in the 1980s had relevance to Cliff today – not letting people who don’t know the truth get to you. Travellin’ Light made way for Roll Over Beethoven and Miss You Nights, one of Cliff’s apparent ‘flops’. Cliff then gave an amusing tale of an account from his travels in America before singing The Young Ones, and I have to say that, given the energy that went into the whole show, at 76 years old Cliff is still a Young One! Summer Holiday, the brilliant Ocean Deep, Multiplication and Wired For Sound all had the crowd singing along.
During the show, a few fans snuck to the front to present Cliff with gifts, the most touching of which was his great-nieces presenting him with a gift that said ‘You are our hero’.
I’ve attended Cliff concerts since I was a teenager, and know that they’re not complete without a stampede down to the front: Cliff fans seem to psychically know when the collective gathering will take place. It happened relatively early this tour, but Cliff didn’t seem to mind and performed We Don’t Talk Anymore and Devil Woman well to the newly formed front rows.
Then came the most emotional part of the night, and that’s saying something given the evocative songs Collabro sing! Cliff said how we’re privileged to be in this wonderful world, but that the past 6 months have particularly shown us that horrible things do happen. He said that he had his own horrible moment, which lasted 22 months and 2 days. Despite the incredible support during that time, he admitted that he spent a lot of nights weeping and felt alone. He wanted God to talk to him, which he seemed to do through a Robbin Gibb song – Don’t Cry Alone. Cliff’s beautiful performance of this had me in tears, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. If I wasn’t already standing during it, I would have soon got to my feet when it finished. This show made me realise even more what a true legend Sir Cliff is.
Throughout the show, Cliff had fun with his band, and later said that he’s never been a one-man band and is always supported by very talented people. His backing singer, Suzie Furlonger, joined him at the front to perform Suddenly. This was followed by The Day I Met Marie and Sweet Little Sixteen, which proved that Cliff’s wiggles can still send the crowd wild. After Singing The Blues, Cliff involved the crowd in singing Congratulations, recently voted the UK’s greatest Eurovision entry of all time by Radio Times readers, despite it ‘losing’ (finishing second) in the contest itself. He then performed his debut single, Move It, released when he was just 17, followed by We Don’t Talk Anymore, with excellent drums finishing the set. Cliff returned to the stage with It’s Gonna Be Okay. This show proved that you can’t keep a good man down.
Tonight is the final night of this tour (again in Greenwich) but, if you’ve not yet got your ticket, all is not lost: there’s still availability. Head to http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Cliff-Richard-tickets/artist/735971. If you are going, It’s Gonna Be, Gonna Be…Oh, Just Fabulous.