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Concert Reviews:
Rick Astley rolls at Saint Andrews

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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DETROIT -- “I’m gonna level with you,” Rick Astley told the Saturday night, April 21 crowd in front of him at Saint Andrew’s Hall. “I’m over 50 now. I don’t give a s***. I’m gonna do whatever I want.”

And that was just fine as far as those fans were concerned.

It helped that the 52-year-old British singer’s desires dovetailed perfectly with what the crowd wanted -- and even gave the fans a bit more than they knew they wanted. What could have been a night of genial nostalgia and even kitsch waiting for the inevitable 1987 smash “Never Gonna Give You Up” was instead an ebullient celebration led by a performer in a potent second phase of his career, as good now as he was 30-some years ago and possibly even having more fun than when he was actively at the top of the charts.

Pronouncing several times “Saturday night in Dee-troit!,” Astley charmed and disarmed over the course of the 18-song, nearly hour-and-45-minute show with his still-robust and soulful tenor, a set list that had everything (and, again, maybe more) than a fan could want and exuberant, self-deprecating humor that winked at nature of being a pop star in his sixth decade. “When you get to my age, omigod, make the crowd sing and you can do less,” he noted at one point. He also joked about men in the audience who had been “dragged along” by Astley’s female fans (though there were a substantial number who clearly didn’t take much convincing) and had a fun exchange with a young woman, and a her mother, who held up a sign that “I used to think you were my dad!”

And before his encore mash-up of his “Take Me To Your Heart” with Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” Astley -- sporting a black suit and T-shirt with Varvatos Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers -- spoke of his 26-year-old daughter hearing it for the first time and telling him “Never. Do. That. Again.”

Astley and his crack six-piece band, with two-back up singers, had plenty of surprises during a set that varied significantly from the other shows on his current tour. After telling the crowd about a visit the day before to the Motown Historical Museum that left him “Truly Inspired” the group broke into the Temptations’ “My Girl,” following it with a celebratory round of Jägermeister shots. “They don’t write ‘em like that anymore, do they?” he said afterwards. “They write some good ‘uns, but they don’t write ‘em like that.”

The Jager-fueled troupe then romped through Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You,” with Astley faux apologizing to Sheeran afterwards, and started the encore with Foo Fighters’ “Everlong,” a nod to the group that has hosted Astley on stage several times for performances of “Never Gonna Give You Up.” A reference to Alabama, meanwhile, got the group starting Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” though Astley cut that short after a few lines.

On top of all that, the good -- and to some revelatory -- news was how well Astley’s own material has helped up, and how well songs from his new album “50” (including “Keep Singing,” “Angels On My Side,” “Pray With Me” and “Dance”) sounded next to them. The lesson, of course, was there’s substantially more than “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and favorites such as “Together Forever,” “It Would Take A Strong Man,” the disco-tinged “Whenever You Need Somebody” and “Cry For Help” staked a claim for Astley as vastly underappreciated.

Even better news -- Astley, who was classy enough to thank the Saint Andrews crew as well as his own, promised this won’t be the last we see of him, vamping during “Never Gonna Give You Up” that “we’re coming back to Detroit” and tunefully asking “If we come again will you come again?” The answer, of course, was decidedly in the affirmative.

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