CLIFF RICHARD: Diamond Encore 2019
Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, Monday 1st July, 2019
Sir Cliff reprises his show from last year, commemorating sixty years in The Business, in this open-air concert set among the beautiful buildings of the Old Royal Naval College, where the burger bars and portaloos look woefully out of place, yet the rainbow flag seems apt, bringing a splash of colour to the grey edifices.
The set is comprised of hit songs from each of Richard’s six decades, with a change of jacket for each era, each one snazzier than the last. Move It, the first rock and roll record by a British artist retains a raw power – and Richard is still in great voice and is still able to move it. It’s as if the years drop away when he’s on stage. From where I’m sitting, he’s a tiny figure on the distant stage but he can’t half shift himself. Huge video screens flanking the stage afford close-ups and, when the stage lighting hits him in a certain way, he’s still the handsome heartthrob of yesteryear with cheekbones that go on for days.
In the 60s section, it’s Summer Holiday that really gets everyone singing along, as well as Living Doll – a song changed forever by his Comic Relief collaboration with The Young Ones. And, of course, the song that gave the comedians their name, is still splendid.
When it comes to the 70s, there’s Devil Woman which is perfectly rendered here, but as a cover, Sir Cliff doesn’t opt for any glam, disco or punk hit from the decade. Instead, he gives us a haunting rendition of the Art Garfunkel number from Watership Down, composer Mike Batt’s wistful contemplation of death, Bright Eyes. The songs are linked by funny stories: Cliff is both falsely immodest and self-deprecating. He takes a swig from a plastic bottle, grimaces and complains to someone in the wings, “This is water!”
Miss You Nights is just beautiful and Wired For Sound goes down excellently well but it’s a shame his hundredth single (“I release one a year”) is a bit of a dud. Renowned for his religious bent, Richard keeps the sermonising to a bare minimum with From A Distance – tonight is more about the party. New song Rise Up obliquely refers to surviving the recent hard times he was unnecessarily subjected to by an ill-advised broadcast of a police raid on his home. Again, Sir Cliff keeps things light: we are here to enjoy ourselves, and the die-hard, dyed-hair fans are out in force.
The evening comes to an end with his biggest hit, We Don’t Talk Anymore. A phenomenon in British pop culture, Sir Cliff shows no signs of retiring, even with his 80th birthday looming this October and it’s a genuine pleasure to see him play live after being a presence in my life since my childhood. As showbiz veterans go, he tops the lot.