Entertainment Music

Sunday 24 September 2017

Pop

Aidan Coughlan

National Concert Hall

Billy Ocean is the bestselling black British artist of all time, a nugget of trivia that usually invites the questions: 'Really? Him?'

For while Ocean dominated the charts during two separate spells in the 1970s and 1980s, his material was never imbued with the sort of staying power that has kept other stars of that era firmly in the limelight.

That's not to say he's forgotten, however, and a comfortably filled National Concert Hall -- less than two years after his previous outing in the capital -- is testament to this.

And he's only 62. You'd hardly know it on first glance -- his tied-up dreadlocks are so brilliantly white that he could easily be mistaken for a stage light -- but his moves make it clear that this is a man still on the right side of the civil service retirement age.

Perhaps, if anything, he tries a little bit too hard to be the 'consummate showman'.

Many artists employ call-and-answer techniques to engage their audiences. Some use it sparingly and effectively. And some are Billy Ocean.

For a time, it seems as if the crooner and his eight-strong band are unable to finish a song without breaking it down and inviting the audience to join in a quick singalong -- for about 12 minutes.

This proves damaging to the show's momentum -- and his chatter is similarly well-meaning but poorly judged.

"Now that I'm your 'Loverboy'" he says, having just completed his 1985 single, "it's probably safe for you to 'Get Into My Car'!"

It's a neat segue, and he probably doesn't mean it to sound quite so creepy. But it does elicit a few chuckles . . . and uneasy glances.

They're soon forgotten, though, as he launches into that song -- just one in a string of infectious tunes that bring the audience to their feet.

When you have songs like 'Caribbean Queen', 'Love Really Hurts Without You' and 'When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going', you can be forgiven for taking your time in running them down, or unintentionally sounding like a predator.

The show's dull phases sure are dull. But just about every time it feels as if the audience's attention might be slipping away, another forgotten hit gets pulled from Ocean's back pocket.

It just goes to show that when the going gets tough, Billy Ocean gets . . . well, in the spirit of the occasion, I'll let you finish that line for yourself.

Irish Independent

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