Gig review: Steve Harley at Holmfirth Picturedrome

Legendary singer/songwriter Steve Harley brought his latest incarnation of Cockney Rebel to Holmfirth to perform in front of a sell-out audience.

Steve Harley at Holmfirth Picturedrome. Picture: Martin Hutchinson
Steve Harley at Holmfirth Picturedrome. Picture: Martin Hutchinson

For me personally, it was a case of ‘full circle’ as Harley was the last artist I saw before lockdown and seeing him again proved that live music was back – and how!

Harley set the scene with a very apt opening track in How Good It Feels, a song outlining his feelings at performing live again.

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As always, there were lots of surprises as Harley does like to play songs he hasn’t played in a while and there were seven songs in the set that I hadn’t heard love before, and the first trio of numbers fell into that category.

Following Promises and All Men Are Hungry, Harley berated an audience member who was using a flash and therefore distracting him. He said he didn’t mind people taking pictures, as long as there were no flashes.

The next song (Love) Compared To You was originally recorded in 1976, but Harley write a third verse over 40 years later and re-recorded it on his latest album ‘Uncovered’. This paean to his wife was well received by the crowd. Mind you, all of Harley’s songs are applauded enthusiastically as he has some of the loyalist fans of any musician, and he is always humbled by them.

Not known for mincing his words, he also made it clear that he has no time for anti-vaxxers as people being vaccinated is a major reason why live shows have been able to restart.

The sublime A Friend For Life was next and showed Harley at his most emotive. Then of the three songs leading up to the interval, two of them: Mr Soft and Riding The Waves (For Virginia Woolf) are major fan favourites and were played with expert musicianship.

Speaking of musicianship, it has to be said that the quintet of musicians with Harley all played superbly and four of them have played with Harley for many years: Barry Wickens supplied the sublime violin, James Lascelles was on keyboards, guitarist Robbie Gladwell was as solid as ever and new bassist Kumar Harada provided excellent rhythm alongside original Cockney Rebel drummer Stuart Elliott.

The second half kicked off with another couple of fan favourites – recent ones this time, with Coast Of Amalfi and Journey’s End.

During another rarity, The Lighthouse, we were treated to a mind-blowing violin solo courtesy of Mr Wickens.

Inbetween songs, Harley chatted to the audience and told us how he managed to make Lorraine Kelly blush – twice!

The song that started it all for Steve in Britain, Judy Teen, had the audience joining in with greater gusto than previously and The Best Years Of Our Lives had all the members of the band having a solo spot.

The classic Sebastian, which was Steve’s first hit (but only in Europe, it was strangely ignored in Britain despite being played at every show) ended the main part of the show. There were also a couple of little surprises here with some phasing effects and a rather nice jazzy section.

Of course, that wasn’t the end. Harley and his cohorts couldn’t leave without playing what Harley refers to as his ‘pension’; the mega-hit that is Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) which again had active participation from the highly satisfied crowd.

Overall, a brilliant show from a master musician and songsmith.