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Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel

Published on September 26th 2005.

Steve Harley rode back into Manchester for a gig at the Bridgewater Hall to celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of the most played songs in broadcasting history – Make Me Smile (Come up and See Me), also a consistent favourite of juke box selectors around the country.

The serene setting of Bridgewater Hall provided ample evidence that the Cockney Rebel has to some extent left the parties behind and slipped on a pair of slippers. A 7.30pm start also suggested an early night with a cup of Horlicks was more in the offing than a night on the town throwing TVs out of windows.

The early start turned out to be because of the length of time spent on stage. Not including an interval, we worked out that he played for around two and a half hours which, in his own words, was “longer than a Ken Dodd show.”

We were the first to admit that the only real song we knew of was 'Come Up and See Me (Make Me Smile)' which will be sacrilege to the obvious loyal fan base present at the show – “Do you remember me from Blackpool in the 70s?” came one of the shouts from the audience. Our lack of knowledge about any of the other songs, apart from ‘Mr Soft’ which we only remembered from the old Softmint adverts, not only displayed a shallow appreciation of his biggest hit only, but also a lack of knowledge about a guy who has knocked out ten albums over 32 years since he came onto the scene in 1973.

'Make Me Smile' itself hit number one in 1975 and has been covered more than 100 times. As well as celebrating its anniversary, Steve was also promoting his first studio album since 1997 - 'The Quality of Mercy' which is out on October 3rd.

Some of the dads and mums in the audience had brought their sons and daughters to the show to have the opportunity to listen to some ‘real music’ for a change no doubt.

Complete with original ‘Cockney Rebel’ Stuart Elliott on drums, the audience were treated to a reminiscent set that would have satisfied the older generation, as well as providing some quality material for younger ears that showcased a singer/songwriter enthusiastically carrying on his career to write songs rather than to achieve any more fame, with Steve himself admitting that he’d had enough of that after two years in his heyday limelight.

Some anecdotal and comedy moments followed. Anecdotes including the time that half of Steve’s band walked out on him at the end of a 44 date tour, just days before they were headlining the Reading Festival - suffice to say, the show went on.

The comedy moments were provided by 80s air guitaring which ended most of the songs in the second half of the performance. Theatrical gestures accompanied the songs as well, which may have something to do with Steve’s recent foray into the world of musicals.

It all became a bit too much for one obvious embarrassing mum who tried to storm the stage, arms spread – Bridgewater Hall is a great setting, but it's not the place for stage diving and moshing.

In the end, a bit of a dip followed as Steve reeled off some new material before lurching into fans’ favourite ‘Sebastian’. But in the end, it was 'Make Me Smile (Come up and See Me)' that everyone had come to celebrate, and a rousing rendition, complete with full crowd participation, ensured everyone went home having been to see him and, indeed, smiling.

Bridgewater Hall - Box Office on 0161 907 9000

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