Shakin Stevens is a household name within the UK music industry having had hits such as This Ole House and Green Door and his chart success as a Rock and Roll artist has expanded into Europe and beyond. With a career that spans four decades and around 20 studio albums Shakin Stevens is no stranger to this game and touring must come naturally to him after all this time. However turning 71 earlier this month Shakin set out on this tour and I was keen to see if he still had what it takes to get the Bridgewater Hall to its feet. The support came from keys player Gavin Povey and his drummer Shane Atlas, Povey (who looked like one of my university lecturers and played like him - very well) interacted well with the audience and played a selection of mostly upbeat Rhythm and Blues, Jazz and Boogie Woogie numbers. He displayed some high level piano skills as he made his way through around six songs, the stand out tune for me being Boogie Woogie Country Girl. His drummer who looked like he’d just fallen out of a Charles Dickens novel was eccentric to say the least, up and down from behind the drum kit like a yoyo but when he paced the stage with his tambourine it did make the minority of the audience who was still filtering in and finishing their conversations shut up and listen!
For the main event the stalls were full, many fans with Shakin Stevens t-shirts on. He opened the show with How Could it be Like That which instantly made the audience begin to sway and clap along. Then onto a song which was taken to number 1 on the Country charts by Crystal Gayle but Shaky took it up the pop charts over here was Turning Away. After a couple of numbers Shakin addressed the audience, welcoming the Manchester crowd. He talked us through the songs as they came up, told their stories or whereabouts in his long and successful career they came. We went back to the 80s for Give Me Your Heart Tonight followed by a clear fan favourite It’s Raining. It was only then I noticed the graphics on the screen behind him, they were used throughout his set from this point onwards with videos or stills relating to the song. After Got My Mind Set On You he sang You Drive Me Crazy which he dedicated to the songwriter Ronnie Harwood who was apparently in the audience, this instantly got much of the crowd, where I was sitting, to their feet as there just wasn’t enough room to boogie in their seat.
Shakin Stevens, dressed all in black with his suit jacket buttoned up, had been dancing very well for a 71 year old and singing well too. Touring is no mean feat and takes it out of the youngest of musicians. He went back to the 80s again with You Never Talked About Me. However it was in this next song that I really appreciated the level of musicianship on stage, Shakin Stevens was accompanied by 9 other people on stage, two female backing vocalists, two guitar players (who also played mandolin and sung some backing vocals), the drummer, a trumpet player, a saxophonist (who also played harmonica), a bass player and a keyboardist. During Don’t Lie To Me there was a fantastic saxophone solo that was executed exceptionally well. In fact Shakin Stevens much like Lyle Lovett seemed to plan his set to show off his bands strengths as there were some wonderful harmonies/backing vocals during Suffer Little Children. The final song of the first half was Cry Just A Little Bit another fan favourite that was a #3 hit for him back in the 80’s. The audience gave a standing ovation as he left the stage, blowing kisses and waving to the crowd, promising to be back for more in twenty minutes.
Shakin Stevens returned to the stage and if I thought he breathed new life into the crowd before the break I hadn’t seen anything yet. The second half was full of hits as well as a few numbers from his latest record Echoes of our Times including single Down into Muddy Waters, another song which his backing vocalists excelled at. They were moving all the time with their in sync dance moves and they weren’t the only ones as various band members got into their music and solos and the music overcame them. A Letter to You, released in the 80s, was one of my favourites on the night. It’s important to note that despite being 71 Shakin Stevens voice hasn’t lost any strength as he executed every high note and every key change throughout his set superbly. Shakin Stevens co-wrote a number of the tracks on his latest album released in 2016 including the very poignant Fire in her Blood which is written about his grandmother, a member of the salvation army.
Oh Julie, another number 1 hit for Shakin Stevens got everyone to their feet immediately, as they realised what song he was playing the crowd began to cheer and clap before dancing and singing along. The crowd stayed on their feet now until the end as he pulled out all the big tunes. Green Door was another crowd pleaser as they sang in full voice. A lady just a little further down from me danced wildly in the aisle, loving every second of the show. He finished the show with Last Man Alive another from his most recent studio album and as he took his bows you knew it couldn’t be the end! Of course not, arguably his biggest hit This Ole House had not yet been sung. The band exited the stage but soon hurried back on as the audience yelled for more. My Mum like a number of people in the audience sang with a big grin on her face as the man next to me tried to pull off Shakin Stevens famed dance moves. Though Stevens had danced throughout, turning away from the front so we had a side on view, it was nothing compared to what he used to do and in this penultimate number in the encore he attempted his old moves as the crowd roared with excitement and encouragement. As he drew the night to a close one thing was clear, he still loves his fans dearly and wants to be on that stage for as long as he can, he’s a true performer and entertainer who gives his fans a real good time, every time.