Published on theMusic.com.au, Nov 2017
Pic by Daniel Cribb
Yusuf (Cat Stevens)
Transforming Perth Arena’s stage into an immersive West End trainstation, Yusuf (Cat Stevens) had punters in awe even before making an entrance.
The British legend casually strolled out with his acoustic for Don’t Be Shy, bassist Kwame Yeboah and guitarist Eric Appapoulay joining after a verse to add some gentle accompaniment before Where Do Children Play? injected more energy, Yusuf sweeping between husky and gritty melodies.
“This is a fairly old song that Rod Stewart updated,” he said, taking a seat and settling into an intimate and raw rendition of The First Cut Is The Deepest.
For an artist of his calibre, the stripped-back nature of the arena show was refreshing and exactly what the iconic music deserved; songs such as Blackness Of The Nightwere instantly captivating as Yusuf’s powerful melodies and earnest voice took hold.
Miles From Nowhere found the perfect balance of folk and rock with quiet verses and rocking choruses, Yeboah playing bass and drums (not to mention his various stints on the piano throughout the night) while Appapoulay shredded.
The guitar intricacies and thoughtful lyrics of The Wind and Daytime – the latter taken from his last official album as Cat Stevens in 1978 – showcased just how good a songwriter he is, as the short, sharp hits cut straight to the point.
Mary And The Little Lamb off 2017’s The Laughing Apple LP was revealed as a song that had been sitting in storage for 50 years and only recently dusted off – a welcome decision as its upbeat rhythm and inspirational melodies were a set highlight, especially when percussionist Glen Scott delivered soaring backing vocals in its chorus.
From the West End to Jamaica, a healthy dose of reggae was injected into the evening for an interesting and memorable rendition of (Remember The Days Of The) Old Schoolyard.
“Don’t go anywhere, we’ll be right back,” he said, ushering in an intermission after only 45 minutes onstage that somewhat interrupted the building momentum.
“Welcome to my attic!” he yelled upon return, as a curtain dropped to reveal another insane set you’d expect to find on Broadway. The attic resembled that of his childhood home, located above a cafe.
It set the scene for a hit-laden, story-driven second half, welcomed by a quick acoustic verse of There’s A Place From Us from 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story.
He put down the guitar and walked over to a record player to put on The Beatles’Twist & Shout.
“We all wanted to be in that band. Here’s my chance,” he said, kicking into From Me To You with his full band. The trip down memory lane continued with his first big hit, Mathew & Son.
It wasn’t all easy going after the ’67 hit, though, with Yusuf quick to admit he wasn’t too fond of the industry’s inner-workings at the time, as illustrated via the blues-heavy Big Boss Man.
The insightful introduction to “over-orchestrated and overproduced” follow-up single A Bad Night was met with an unhappy reaction from a frontrow punter who requested a different song. “Go to another concert if you don’t like this one,” he responded.
The short and sweet Tea For The Tillerman paved the path for longtime musical partner Alan Davies to join him on guitar and backing vocals for Wild World. It’s overwhelming melodies carrying over into If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out and Morning Has Broken, which were only slightly hindered by a relentless buzzing noise over the PA that a roadie was quick to fix once summoned.
The stark contrast between Moonshadow and Ruby Love truly highlighted the singer’s eclectic back catalogue and his status as one of the all-time greats was cemented with flawless performances of Oh Very Young, The Hurt, and another Beatles fanboy moment (Here Comes The Sun), all accompanied by tales of his religious enlightenment; the ecstasy of which was summarised in See What Love Did To Me.
He blamed the media (giving a special mention to Australia’s) for the “misunderstanding” about his time away from music, talking of his education, charity and family endeavours, the latter of which was the perfect segue into epic singalong Father & Son.
“Fast forward – I think it’s time to get on that loco.” The Peace Train finally arrived, bringing with it a smorgasbord of classics that included Can’t Keep It In, Maybe There’s A World and Beatles’ All You Need Is Love to round out a stunning performing.