Review: Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) wowed fans at Newcastle City Hall

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Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) at Newcastle City Hall
This nostalgic 'A Cat's Attic' tour celebrated 50 years since the release of his first hit single, I Love My Dog

The sold-out show featured stripped-down, introspective performances from the 68-year-old singer songwriter, who gave fans insight into his musical and spiritual journey. 

The set resembled a flat where he lived above his parents’ café in London, and featured a West Side Story poster on the wall, a piano, stacks of books and empty picture frames. Set against a twilight sky, moonlight streamed through the attic's window and the chimney gave out plumes of smoke adding a theatrical touch to the show.

There was some serious head bopping among fans who clapped in appreciation as each song began. People had travelled far and wide to be at his show – one lady in particular had travelled alone from New York and another had come from the Middle East. 

Before singing I Love My Dog, Yusuf claimed it was ‘50 years to the day’ since he released the hit song and cheers roared. Declaring his love for Disney and Van Gogh he also explained that The Beatles were one of his musical influences and pulled out a vinyl of theirs and played a burst of the fab-four's Twist And Shout on a record player.  

His sense of humour and intriguing tales about his life such as reaching his 'creative limits' after being on tour with Jimi Hendrix, punctuated songs during the set.  Before singing Peace Train, the star, back by two talented musicans, held up a toy of Disney character Judy Hopps from Zootopia, and read out her speech from the film, which was rather moving.

More music followed and a short cover of Love Me Do was a real crowd-pleaser, but it was classic songs from his extensive back catalogue such as Matthew and Son, Moonshadow, Wild World and Rubylove that really got the crowd's attention.  Before singing Here Comes My Baby, he explained how his 'older, taller, brother, who got all the ladies' was the inspiration behind it. In fine voice, his distinctive vocals shone as he sang The First Cut Is The Deepest.

After a short interval part two featured more songs from his popular album, Tea for the Tillerman, including Into White and Where Do The Children Play. As he strummed the intro to Father and Son on his acoustic guitar cheers rippled through the hall and a huge sing along broke out during the chorus.

Sharing another story about a time when he literally got out of his depth in the sea in Malibu, the star explained how he was struggling to swim back to the shore and felt it was the end of his life. He said ‘I turned to God and asked for his help and as I did a wave came from nowhere and pushed me back towards the shore’. From then he promised to work for God and with this came a break from the music industry. It wasn't until years later when his son took a guitar to his home that he picked it up as he felt like he had a 'job to do', that job being making more music. Not only does he have a new album on the way, he’s also planning to release a book. Ending with what he claimed ‘is the most beautiful song’, he delivered a delicate rendition of Morning Has Broken to a standing ovation.

Published in: November 2016

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