(Words – Ian Bell, Photos – Rodney Magazinovic)
Props must be given to opening act, local singer/songwriter Sean Kemp. He has been playing in numerous bands around Adelaide for many years (usually behind a drum kit). Turns out Mr Kemp is a fine singer with some great songs, who tonight with his brother Drew and chanteuse Paraskevi Kontoleon, kicked out some impressive three part harmonies. They quickly won over Sayers audience in the always-awkward opening spot. The set-closer, That Girl, has all the makings of massive country music hit and they need to get onto Alan Jackson’s management, or buy some Stetsons, right away.
Australia was an early adopter of Leo Sayer. He first toured here forty years ago to sold out shows and scenes of bedlam at airports and concert halls as ‘Leo-Mania’ took over the country. His top-notch pop songs, energetic performances and affable persona, made for great TV and endeared him to Aussie audiences from the start. Four decades later that relationship is solid as a rock.
Much of the audience tonight has been with him all along, so it’s people of, well let’s say, a certain vintage (and I say that as a member of this group). United by one thing: they LOVE this guy. Bounding on stage in a suit jacket and stripey pants, his trademark curls bouncing about, Leo jumps in at the beginning of his career with The Show Must Go On from his debut album Silverbird in 1973. It was the image of Leo in a full pierrot outfit at the height of the Glam Rock era, that helped make such an impact. That and the fact it was, and is, a cracker of a song. The frantic hand gestures are still here and Leo humorously suggests we sing along at the scatting lyrics in the middle. Straight into One Man Band from the Just a Boy record from 1974. Those early songs using the metaphor of being a performer as a way of writing about love and relationships, are examples of really great songwriting. When he starts Moonlighting (1975) people all around me are prodding each other, nodding acknowledgement, like an old friend has walked into the room at a school reunion. A story about a young couple running away to start a new life away from their disapproving families and friends is still as moving as it was 40 years ago.
And so it goes. For the next two hours Sayer Loves Us More Than He Can Say, takes us on the Train to Orchard Road, asks us if We’ve Ever Been In Love? He is playful, good natured and heaps of fun. There are some new songs from his last couple of albums (Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow from 2008, and 2015’s Restless Years) with both To The River and the amusing How Did We Get So Old? being stand outs. During the course of the evening we are reminded that Leo has had hits as a balladeer, pop singer, “serious” singer/songwriter, and disco artist. Yes, disco! It was a surprise to many when he released You Make Me Feel Like Dancing in 1976, which became a worldwide hit and dance-floor smash. Tonight it leads into the terrific Long Tall Glasses and there is much ‘chair dancing’ nearby. He winds up the set with another ‘discotheque’ favourite How Much Love. Back for a couple more power ballads and a story about how much Australia has meant to him over the years and when he explains he became an Australian citizen in 2009 the place erupts with pride. We love him, he loves us.
After the show Leo sits in the foyer for over an hour enthusiastically signing autographs and posing for photographs, laughing and chatting with people til everybody was happy.
What a lovely man.