Neil Sedaka

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Bournemouth International Centre 20th October, 2012

It’s nearly 55 years since Neil Sedaka arrived on the scene with the first of a series of hits that would make him one of the most influential singer-songwriters in the history of popular music.

With numbers like Oh Carol, Calendar Girl, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen and Breaking Up Is Hard To Do it took the young New Yorker just four years - from 1958 to 1963 - to sell an astounding 40 million records.

That certainly wasn’t the end of it - there have been many more brilliant recordings - and on Saturday night a now 73-year-old Sedaka arrived in Bournemouth armed only with a grand piano, his inimitable voice and a formidable catalogue of instantly recognisable songs.

 The ensuing concert was a masterclass in how to write and perform numbers so catchy that they still have people singing along, word-perfect a half a century after they were first released.

A superb pianist - trained at Manhattan’s famed Julliard School - Sedaka also possesses a genius for composition, a matinee idol tenor that can convey drama, heartbreak and joy with deceptive ease and a sizable dash of rock ‘n’ roll showmanship. It’s a compelling combination.

He’s written more than  500 songs - literally the soundtrack to an era. Impossibly catchy pop masterpieces and tear-jerking ballads that have been covered by everyone from Elvis to Elton, The Simpsons to Sinatra. But it’s Sedaka himself who has given them their trademark sound.

The BIC concert delivered hit after hit. Many from his pop idol era but several more dramatic, and more recent, numbers. There was the almost Bernsteinesque Cardboard California from the 1970s and the heartbreaking Mi Amour from his new album The Real Neil. There were anecdotes too and a handy screen - mainly showing close-ups of his hands - but also delivering an hilarious video that Sedaka made to promote Calendar Girl way back in 1961.

After observing his lithe, youthful self surrounded by scantly clad lovelies the singer told the audience that he’d actually met Miss January in an Los Angeles restaurant a few weeks back. “She was a very, very old woman,” he revealed gravely, before adding with a smug gesture to the screen, “Of course I’m just the same.” A great evening of fun and superb music.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2017