Gig review: Rick Astley at Halifax Victoria Theatre

Rick Astley
Rick Astley
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“Do you wanna go back to the Eighties?” roars Rick Astley, his words delivered in a broad, warm northern accent.

Behind him, his cherub-like face circa 1987 is projected onto a large backdrop, shifting between unquestionably dodgy hairstyles, as a giddily brassy Together Forever lifts the predominantly female and middle-aged crowd to its feet.

The rejuvenation of the Stock Aitken Waterman flagbearer from memetic has-been to chart-topping troubadour is a comeback few saw coming – and on night two of a sell-out tour at Halifax’s Victoria Theatre, he justifies the hype with a superb, wonderfully self-deprecating and then some.

Astley’s resurgence came with the unexpected success of last year’s 50, a record steeped in neo-soul singer-songwriter pop, which makes up almost half of his set alone. A calculated risk, it instead pays dividends; new material such as the dramatic, driving Coming Home Tonight and the spirited shuffle of This Old House are as warmly received as classic hits Cry for Help and Hold Me In Your Arms.

Their reception is helped by the singer’s saucy-seaside vein of humour and warm ridicule for himself. “Are you girls up for it?” he asks before a soulful Keep Singing with a wry grin. “You’re always up for it!” Later, he observes that he is aware several male patrons are “not here of their own free will” and during the surging electro-rock of Lights Out, whoops “Yeah, baby!”, like Lancashire’s answer to Austin Powers. He is undoubtedly a hoot.

His amiability would fall flat if he couldn’t deliver the goods with his voice though, but the double-cream-richness of his baritone remains undiminished by time, much like his absurdly youthful appearance.

Backed by a crack four-piece outfit and two additional vocalists, he is an engaging bandleader and vocalist, bouncing between clubland covers of Ed Sheeran and Rihanna to elegiac acoustic balladry to copper-bottomed classic cheese with enviable ease.

When he screws up the intro of Angels On My Side, he sniggers like a schoolboy; during the gloriously camp closer of Never Gonna Give You Up, he instigates a bass-heavy breakdown so he can simply perform some funky dad-dancing.

Cool, he is not; but 30 years on, Rick Astley live remains improbably effervescent, fabulously consummate and preposterously fun.