November 1, 2023
Royal Albert Hall, London
Rick Astley was riding high on the success of his ninth album, ‘Are We There Yet?’, which hit No. 2 on the UK charts in its week of release, when he took to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall for the opening night of his UK tour.
The pop icon’s concerts at the west London venue arrived months ahead of the launch of the main leg of his arena trek, which resumes in February and March, but it didn’t take long for him – and the crowd – to warm up, as introductory music from ‘Star Wars’ soon transitioned into his ‘80s classic, Together Forever, and had the entire venue on its feet.
Although celebrating his latest offering, Rick took several opportunities to look to the past and celebrate the anthems that laid the foundations of his career for decades to come, revisiting She Wants To Dance With Me and Whenever You Need Somebody with interpolations of Lizzo’s Juice and Chic’s Good Times, respectively.
They weren’t the only times he touched on songs originally by other artists; included in the set was his crowd-pleasing cover of Harry Styles’ As It Was – which despite calls from fans has yet to be released in studio form – before Rick took to the drums and showed off his skills as a sticksman on a rocking rendition of AC/DC’s Highway To Hell, performed from behind the kit.
Recent singles such as Beautiful Life, Angels On My Side and Dance also had moments in the show but the centerpiece of Rick’s return to the stage was his latest album, from which he delivered six tracks, including the singles Dippin My Feet, Never Gonna Stop and Forever And More.
The guitar-led Letting Go and mid-tempo High Enough both showcased the quality of his latest offering, which flourished in the live setting, while a tribute to his wife on Driving Me Crazy was a visibly emotional moment for the hitmaker.
Frequently seen with a guitar in hand, Rick’s live shows are a reminder how far he’s come from those early Stock Aitken Waterman days; over the course of 35+ years, he’s developed into a fine singer-songwriter and a musician capable of commanding the stage from behind a mic stand, letting his still-distinctive vocals do the talking. Proof of that lies firmly within the new material, which proved as captivating as //those// pop classics which, naturally, had the entire crowd stepping back in time.
A slight rework of the setlist to add meat to the end of the show could have helped balance things out – switching penultimate track High Enough with one of his better-known recent singles would probably do the trick – but in reality he can afford to put whatever he likes in that spot because, come the end of the evening, there’s only one song on everyone’s mind: Never Gonna Give You Up.
So there was no surprise when he closed the show with his debut, global chart-topping single and had the entire Royal Albert Hall singing and dancing along, demonstrating once again his credentials as a British pop legend.