REVIEW: Rick Astley, The Sage Gateshead

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.
Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Rick Astley kicked off his UK tour with a thoroughly entertaining evening of live music at a sold-out The Sage Gateshead.

Fully embracing his new lease of life, he effortlessly melded his '80s hits with entertaining covers of contemporary pop and his own new material.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

He also charmed the crowd with great comic timing, making self-depreciating cracks and candidly criticising the mistakes of his early solo career.

An almost two-hour long performance ended with lingerie on-stage in an ironic throwback to his days as a pop heart-throb, as he closed a surprisingly exceptional show with his 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up.

Astley was, for some time, the maligned poster-child for the cookie-cutter pop of Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and subsequently out of the limelight for decades.

The viral phenomenon of 'Rickrolling' - trolling internet users by stealthily linking to Never Gonna Give You Up - was the catalyst for his renaissance, and the fast sell-out of this date testament to the soft spot many have for him in the region.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Most undoubtedly booked their tickets to see the mega-hits of his heyday, and all of them did feature, but Rick also performed new music with his talented backing band.

This was predominantly bold pop-rock, while the band provided a jazzy edge, and his female backing vocalist often took centre stage herself with hugely impressive flashes of vocal talent in her own right.

His set started with hits including Together Forever and It Would Take a Strong, Strong Man, before he suggested the audience sit down lest they be "knackered".

His adrenaline was obvious early on, as he engaged super-fans in the crowd assuredly, bantering with cat-callers and a curious revolving man in a manner more akin to a stand-up comedian than a pop vocalist.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The first covers of the evening appeared in the middle of his set, with Clean Bandit's Rather Be and Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk the modern choices.

"I just like singing, I always have," revealed Astley in introducing them, explaining that he's just as happy to perform other people's songs as his own.

Both covers were entertaining, and got the crowd on their feet, before he settled into a heartfelt debut live performance of new song Angels On My Side.

Cry For Help followed, segueing into a chaotic medley of Culture Club, Whitney Houston and more.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The encore commenced with yet another cover of sorts, mashing up classic single Take Me To Your Heart with the music from Rihanna's We Found Love.

It sounded good, although many would have preferred to hear the original, and as a whole the show didn't need the cover versions to justify the admission fee.

But the evening closed with a couple of undoubted AStley classics: Whenever You Need Somebody, and his most iconic hit.

It needed no introduction, and was the final act of a wholesome, engaging performance that deserved its ovation.

Astley now moves on to more sell-out dates across the country, on a tour that completes his rehabilitation as an elder statesman of the pop world.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Rick Astley started his latest UK tour at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Katy Blackwood.