Botanic Park, Sat 25 Nov.
Adelaide’s Botanic Park is once again transformed into a magical concert venue; this time for a night of wonderful music from the one and only Yusuf/Cat Stevens. It’s a beautiful warm evening, and the park is full of happy, relaxed people. The crowd seems to stretch back for miles. As the shadows lengthen, Stevens walks out onto the stage, which has been dressed up to look like a train station platform, and receives a warm welcome from all and sundry. He starts the show with Don’t Be Shy, all the way from 1971. There are initially three performers; Stevens’ acoustic guitar and voice are augmented by Glen Scott on bass and Eric Appapoulay on guitar, along with some impressive backing vocals. A little later the band is further enhanced with some percussion and drums, courtesy Kwame Yeboah. Stevens also plays piano on occasion.
There is no question that Stevens is a songwriter of enormous talent and consequence. This is brought to the very forefront of our consciousness when he plays Where Do The Children Play? and the wonderful The First Cut Is The Deepest, a song so staggeringly simple in many aspects, yet virtually peerless in its beauty and poignancy.
The first set features many highlights and, as day turns to night, the audience is held in Stevens’ thrall as he chats about his many adventures in music and in life. The songs move through the decades seamlessly; Mary And The Little Lamb, a song from Stevens’ latest album is followed by his first-ever single, 1967’s I Love My Dog. Stevens appears to be in good spirits, he speaks as if we are all old friends. As the Botanic Park bats glide effortlessly overhead, the set concludes with (Remember The Days Of The) Old School Yard.
Stevens begins the second portion of the evening at the piano, playing Sad Lisa, before returning to the guitar and the tales of his musical origins. He talks of his love for West Side Story (especially Natalie Wood) and puts a record onto a turntable. He plays a few seconds of Twist And Shout which leads him into his own version of From Me To You. Stevens is a Beatles fan and, like many others, was inspired and influenced by Liverpool’s finest as he started out on his 50-year journey. The set includes Matthew And Son, which proves popular, Wild World, Morning Has Broken and Moonshadow, along with slightly less obvious treats such as If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out (another Harold And Maude song) and a nice take on George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun.
The band is further enhanced by the on-stage arrival of long-time collaborator Alun Davies, who sweetens the songs with more guitar and some sublime backing vocals.
All good things must come to an end, however, and the set concludes with the beautiful Father And Son and the long-awaited Peace Train. People are dancing in the aisles; no-one wants to leave. After a short break the band returns for an encore that comprises Another Saturday Night, Can’t Keep It In and All You Need Is Love – a fitting finale. The crowd gently disperses under the pale light of the setting crescent moon.
Yusuf/Cat Stevens has shown that he still has everything he needs to put on a show that consummately entertains the masses. A performer at the top of his game.
Images courtesy of Ian Bell