THE RYDGES POST
Seeing all these old rockers like the Stones, the Eagles, Queen and Bob Dylan refusing to retire made me reminisce on the best concerts I have experienced and it was none of the above... nor was it Bruce Springsteen or Elton John or Dire Straits or INXS... No, while he's not on the top of my list of singers, my best concert experience was Cat Stevens… aka Steven Georgiou… aka Yusuf Islam.
When you look at Cat Stevens’ musical legacy it comes from a very small window of productivity, mainly the early 1970’s. The singer-songwriter became prolific between two brushes with death. In 1969 he was expected to shuffle off with tuberculosis and, in 1976, he almost drowned off the Californian coast. He had long been on a personal spiritual quest but the latter event turned into his primary focus. But back to the memorable concert and showing my age.
The year was 1972 - I was a student and 24yo Cat Stevens was touring on the back of his albums, Tea for the Tillerman (1970) and Teaser and the Firecat (1971). Those albums threw up myriad hits like Father and Son, Moonshadow, Sad Lisa, Wild World, Peace Train, Morning Has Broken and Lady D’Arbanville.
The concert was in Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion and Cat had surrounded himself with great musicians including Alun Davies on guitar, Jean Roussell on keyboards and Gerry Conway on drums. It was a fabulous concert, resulting in a standing ovation and at least two genuine encores – then the evening really got special. Cat announced that they had exhausted all their rehearsed material… but he had an album in the pipeline and he would be happy to play from that unaccompanied…
Cat let the band go and sat at the grand piano to chat about the upcoming album, Catch Bull at Four – about the chords and keys and lyrics and inspiration – he asked the audience for opinions on variations... It was close to 1:00am when he left the stage to another standing ovation – and not one audience member had left. It was an intimate experience where you felt like you were the only person in the audience and that you had been invited into a very special and generous bubble of creative genius.
The other prompt for this little reminiscence was reading about a show currently touring called Peace Train: The Cat Stevens Story. Normally I don’t go to tribute bands or tribute performers but this one looks like a terrific night that captures those magical years when Cat Steven was at his peak. Darren Coggan performs 23 Cat Stevens hits in this show, woven around the Cat Stevens story. The testimonials on the Peace Train website are very impressive and I think I might sign up for a night of nostalgia and songs that have stood the test of time.
If you are way ahead of me and already plan to see the show, there are Rydges hotels and resorts close to a number of venues for accommodation or a pre-show meal or drink. There’s Rydges Townsville (June 13), Rydges Esplanade Resort, Rydges Tradewinds and Rydges Plaza in Cairns (June 14), Rydges Gladstone (June 20), Rydges South Bank in Brisbane (June 28) and Rydges Melbourne and Rydges on Swanston for concerts on June 30 and 31 and July 1, 2 and 3 at the Arts Centre Playhouse.