LIFE has been anything but predictable for Chris Rea in recent years.
For one, there’s been the poor health of a musician who returns to Sheffield City Hall on Monday.
“I now live without a pancreas and gall bladder,” he says of the fall-out of illness that nearly claimed his life.
“It doesn’t affect the voice but can affect the body in many ways. There’s nothing they can do about it. It’s also left me as a Type 1 diabetic, having six injections a day.”
Illness also got in the way of a prolific 30-year output that has seen the man from Middlesbrough strike gold with Fool (If You Think It’s Over), Stainsby Girls, Let’s Dance, Auberge and The Road To Hell among others.
He issued his first new material in over 10 years last autumn. And, as if making up for lost time, the album Santo Spirito Blues included two bespoke films made by Chris, featuring his music.
Bull Fighting was a brutally honest chronicle of the sport, accompanied by neo-classical and Spanish themed gypsy music.
“I did everything, from the writing to the directing,” says Chris who says he wasn’t campaigning against the tradition.
“Campaigning can be counter-productive; I’ve put it down journalistically. It tells the story of a bull-fight from all sides, from the matador, a young woman and the bull.
“The original idea comes from the Spanish/gypsy guitar music I listened to as a kid. The idea of having a film to watch makes it more interesting than just listening to an album.”
He makes no apology for the more extreme imagery.
“It’s just film-making. It happens and people should know. They should also know the guys that do it are really brave. I’ve talked with some and they do it because there’s no other employment. Perhaps the EEC should sponsor the bull-fighting business not to kill bulls.”
Second film Santo Spirito follows a man’s journey through Florence in his search for the truth.
“I love creating things and passionately believe as artists we should be looking to try new ways of bringing what we do to the public. I’m just trying to find ways for people to listen to music differently.
“To be honest, I can’t be bothered just making a CD any more. It’s got to be something more interesting than just 10 tracks on a CD.”
Three more films with music are planned come tour close.
“The luxury of selling over 30 million albums has allowed me to try new and different approaches to music. I would be damning myself to hell if I just took the money and ran. One day a younger artist may look at what I have been trying, marrying my love of the visual arts and music, and start a whole new movement. Then, I will know it was all worthwhile.”
Fans shouldn’t just expect the new songs on Monday, however, when Chris lands with his seven-piece band.
“It’s a mistake to force the new material on people. In fact, it’s insulting not to do old songs. People get used to the records and have favourites and it’s the people that have given me the opportunity to live this way. And besides… we enjoy playing them.
“In fact, I think the show is dominated by the old favourites, and I don’t see them as mainstream hits. It’s so long ago now that it’s like somebody else wrote them.”
As for personal favourites out of an envied back catalogue? He’s fairly dismissive.
“None at all,” he laughs, “I can find something wrong with ’em all.”
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