IT was the late ’70s when I last really listened to Gilbert – but he’s still going strong, as this performance proved.
Energetic but at ease, and with still enough hair to knit a tank-top, he romped through songs old and new as the audience had a ball. The sound could have been better, but his excellent band shone through, along with that characteristic O’Sullivan driving piano.
But some quieter moments stood out too; a lovely version of Happiness Is Me And You, with just vocal, piano and flute and Nobody, with vocal and accordion.
Old favourites drew fond applause, but new songs showed his writing skills haven’t waned.
The trademark strident rhythm belied poignant lyrics on songs about 9/11 and bullying. A lighter one about the joy of tea gained him a tea cosy, gifted from a fan.
Projections of Gilbert through the years brought memories of youthful adoration and a flat capped era. But it is his ability to be cheerfully down to earth and at the same time capture the difficult and human subjects such as loneliness that give Gilbert’s his enduring appeal. He looked happy fulfilling the dream of a duet with Peggy Lee, on film, and gently sent up earlier songs such as Ooh Wakka Doo Wakka Day.
Alone Again Naturally, his own Eleanor Rigby, was left for the finish – and the encore of Matrimony and Get Down had everyone up clapping.
Gilbert was bursting with energy too, leaping onto the piano at one point – not bad for an over 60. On this display he’ll be going for a few decades yet.