Far from dead, ’60s pop superstar rockin’ at 72
As if to prove that age is a state of mind, 72-year-old British pop singer Sir Cliff Richard did the cha-cha, foxtrot, at some point even the moonwalk, as he sang some of his hits and a few covers with the energy of a twenty something.
For about two hours on Thursday night last week at Smart Araneta Coliseum, Richard seduced his audience—mostly Filipinos but with a few foreigners, ages 30s to 60s—in the one-night-only concert “Cliff Richard: Still Reelin’ and A-Rockin.”
Sir Cliff stoked the crowd with medleys of rock ’n’ roll and classic pop ballads (“Poetry in Motion,” “Sealed with a Kiss” and some Elvis Presley hits). Plus jokes on aging.
“You really enjoyed those,” he said after the first medley, for which he got a resounding “Yes!” Then he spoke directly to some adults in the front rows, ribbing them, “You look older than your age.”
After singing “Twelfth of Never,” he recounted how he was approached by a Frenchwoman in a Paris restaurant, who asked repeatedly if he was “the famous British pop performer.” He denied it a few times, he said, but finally admitted who he was. “I thought that would be the end of it; instead, she exclaimed, ‘You can’t be; you’re dead!’”
For some teenagers who apparently accompanied their grandparents, getting familiar with Sir Cliff might have been as easy as liking, well, Sir Chief (actor Richard Yap’s character in a popular soap), because the singer gave engaging back stories for particular pieces.
Prior to doing “Evergreen Tree” he said, “This was not a hit in the UK or the US but [it was] in Southeast Asia.”
He recalled that another song he recorded in 1976 didn’t make it to the UK Top 100.
“But in Australia,” he said, then paused long enough for a group of Australians in the orchestra section to shriek, “it was even worse.” He turned to the group and said, “I don’t know how they let you in here.”
The song was “D in Love,” which he described as his biggest flop around the world, except Southeast Asia.
He proceeded with what he said was his biggest-selling hit ever, “We Don’t Talk Anymore.” It was written, he boasted, by Australian Alan Tarney. He followed this up with “I Could Easily Fall in Love with You,” “Summer Holiday” and “The Next Time.”
The second half put the crowd in the dancing mood. Richard performed his pioneering hits “Move It,” “Willie and the Hand Jive,” “The Young Ones” and “Devil Woman,” among others.
He later broke the good news that he was reuniting with his original band, The Shadows, next year. “Please support us, it’s our 100th anniversary,” he cracked.
A slight pandemonium ensued when he sang a medley of Little Richard songs. Richard’s birth name was Harry Rodger Webb; he officially changed it to Cliff Richard as a tribute to the US rock ’n’ roll legend and hero of his youth.
In between the fast songs, he squeezed in slower tunes. He cited “Ocean Deep” as one of those “only-in-Southeast-Asia” favorites, but for his audience that night, it was very special. Actually, it was a videoke moment.
Then came “Suddenly,” theme song from the 1980 Olivia Newton-John film “Xanadu.” Richard introduced it, thus: “Olivia used to be one of my concert back-up singers. She was so beautiful, all the boys in the front rows kept looking at her and another pretty one throughout the shows.”
He jested that this annoyed him, so he asked for a grand piano and positioned the two girls behind it.
But when Newton-John had become famous and was doing “Xanadu,” she called to tell him there was this beautiful song made for the film but that her leading man couldn’t carry a tune so she asked if he could please…? He readily said yes.
“Suddenly” at the Big Dome was sung with yet another captivating back-up singer: Suzie Furlonger.
The last few songs, including “Forty Days” and “Do You Wanna Dance” sent the audience dancing again and shouting for more. Richard sang a few encores before taking his final bow, blowing kisses, saying thank you and goodbye. For now.