REVIEW - Steve Harley, A Closer look - Acoustic, Memorial Hall

He was Mr Cool in the Seventies. Come up and see me? If only.

Some 37 years on, I'd still be up those stairs in a flash. Steve Harley, the original Cockney Rebel, is back on the road and this is no comeback cardigan-wearer on an ego trip.

The Memorial Hall show featured three musicians at the peak of their game on a pared-down, stripped-back set and was staggeringly, fabulously good. Harley, Cockney Rebel band-mate and masterly violinist Barry Wickens, and James Lascelles on keboards created something spine-shiveringly beautiful. It was intimate, it was atmospheric; and they were clearly revelling in every moment.

Fresh from a massively successful tour with the full rock band in the spring, and having made his mark at both the Isle Of Wight and Glastonbury Festivals, this time Harley's voice was given centre stage in a stripped down acoustic show.

And it was even better than it was in his heyday - it has matured to malt, with a grainy edge. The acoustic set allowed its quality to shine - and enabled the cleverness of those hit song lyrics to truly resonate.

He didn't simply rattle through the hits and the album tracks that chronicle his career from the debut days of The Human Menagerie, he lovingly recrafted Mr Soft, Judy Teen, Mr Raffles, Sebastian and Make Me Smile.

Interspersed were wonderful tracks full of meaning and rich with life experience from the recent critically-acclaimed album The Quality Of Mercy and the current, Stranger Comes To Town. And between songs, Harley was engaging, anecdotal, self-effacing.

Loved it.

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