Al Stewart review

Al Stewart: Bournemouth Pavilion

This concert was something of a homecoming for singer-songwriter Al Stewart. As a local teenage beat musician Al used to play a regular Tuesday night residency at the Pavilion, playing lead guitar for The Sabres whose singer Tony Blackburn (yup THAT Tony Blackburn) used to rip off his gold lame jacket and writhe on the stage.

Al was 17 back then. He’s 71 now and, despite that rather cheesy start, has enjoyed a stellar international career.  

He’s out on the road with his Back to the Bedsit tour playing stripped back acoustic versions of songs from the past 50 years.

The title references the fact that Al launched his recording career with the album Bedsitter Images, the title song of which was his opener last night. Astonishingly this was his first Pavilion show since 1962. Appropriately it was a Tuesday. 

With guitar accompaniment from long time collaborator Dave Nachmanoff and one-time Sutherland Brothers and Quiver guitarist Tim Renwick, Al plundered his own back catalogue with joyous abandon.

The subtlety and dexterity of the acoustic backing, enhanced by percussion, flute  and sax from guest Marc Macisso, helped emphasise the strength of Stewart’s lyrics.

Songs like On the Border, Night Train to Munich and Old Admirals displayed the intelligence and sense of place and history at the core of his work.

He may be a singer-songwriter, most famous of course for his 1976 hit The Year of the Cat, but essentially he’s a writer. If he wasn’t writing songs I am certain that he’d be writing poems, plays or history books. 

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2017