Surrounding himself with world-class musicians – as this amazing talent deserves nothing less – Carrack comes across as a very unassuming and thankful character (50 years after leaving school to play in a band, he still gets to do what he loves best!) as he works his way through songs from an extensive and acclaimed back catalogue of material from his solo work and from time spent in various successful bands.
His soulful vocals firmly stamp his own take on a range of styles from rock-pop to blues and from soul to soft-rock, while he also excels at being both a songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist, playing keyboard, guitar, piano and harmonica.
Sporting a hat and his red guitar, the Sheffield singer opened with the up-tempo, Too Good To Be True, which highlighted his brand of blue-eyed soul, before quickly taking to the keys for the slow, blues-tinged, Satisfy My Soul.
Keeping his bigger hits for later in the show, he then treated us to a few songs from his most recent album, Soul Shadows, before taking to the grand piano for the first of many crowd pleasers with Eyes Of Blue, which was followed by Carrack’s superior version of Gerry Marsden’s Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.
Apart from his son, Jack, on percussion, I did not manage to catch the names of his six excellent musicians, who each deserve praise and credit for their musicianship, especially his saxophonist and fellow multi-instrumentalist; not that he was any better than the others, but he did have the lion’s share of solo moments in the spotlight.
In the middle of his 20-song set, Carrick – accompanied only by his percussionist son and his bass player – performed a short acoustic set and the highlights were his own song, That’s All That Matters To Me, inspired by his daughter’s fleeing of the nest, and, for me, another superior ‘cover’ … this time of Van Morrison’s Into The Mystic.
From there on in, it was back to the full band sound for a wall-to-wall selection of musical highlights by the 66 year old performer.
These included: Tempted, from his days when he replaced Jools Holland in Squeeze; his co-write for The Eagles, Love Will Keep Us Alive; Mike Rutherford and B. A. Robertson’s song, The Living Years, from his days as lead vocalist with Mike + The Mechanics; and the extended audience sing-along, How Long, from his early days with Ace.
However, for me, the highlight of the evening was his breathtaking rendition of Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold’s classic, You Don’t Know Me.
Although recorded by hundreds of top singers over the years, Ray Charles had the biggest-selling version of the song and Carrack’s vocals here were the closest I have ever heard to those of the legendary Charles.
The encore consisted of Mike Rutherford’s Over My Shoulder and Marvin Gaye’s soulful classic, What’s Going On to send all home happy.
I rarely mention support acts, but must congratulate local singer/songwriter, Triona (Carville), for her outstanding performance here.
It is difficult for any relatively unknown performer to stand in front of someone else’s audience and impress and captivate them in such a short time with a set of mostly self-penned songs, but – with her touching songs about the loss of loved ones, personal heartbreak and self belief – Triona, did just that and, like Carrack, is a much underrated writer and performer.
To sum up, Paul Carrack is simply one of the best singers in popular music!! – This concert at Belfast’s Grand Opera House, as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival, was up there with the best concerts that I have ever attended in almost 60 years of concert-going and reviewing.
‘How Long’ do we have to wait to see him again?