Review: Gilbert O'Sullivan at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, by Roger McCartney
So, to The Apex on Tuesday night to see one of my favourite childhood heroes, Gilbert O’ Sullivan, on the latest stop of his Just Gilbert tour.
Gilbert is one of those performers, who seem to be eternal, always present somewhere in our fond memories, resurrecting every now and then, to remind us of how great they are, and how fantastic the back-catalogue is.
In this latest resurgence, Gilbert – or Ray, as he is known to his friends - appears with only one other musician, Bill Shanley. The result is a cosy, intimate performance, where the man guides us through his repertoire with the sort of class that you would expect from a man who has been at the top of his game for over fifty years. Shanley, a well renowned musician in his own right, ably supports Gilbert here in all his endeavours, and his guitar playing is exceptional.
The audience - mostly made up by aficionados of Gilbert from way back - start cautiously but warm steadily as the night proceeds. The genius of Nothing Rhymed is the first highlight that elicits their rapturous approval.
The hits – and you forget just how many there are – are all cleverly inter-spaced with tunes from the latest album, Gilbert O’Sullivan. The new songs seem to have instant familiarity and O’Sullivan’s gift for fashioning memorable, plaintive songs, with fantastic lyrics, has never left him.
After the interval, more timeless classics follow. Clair, We Will, Alone Again (Naturally) all drive the performance along excellently. Gilbert amuses us with his anecdotes and his endearing personality.
He is a very personable man, and I found myself wishing that I had spent more time in audiences such as this, appreciating his brilliance.
And so, to the encore, and the two barn-stormers of the night: Matrimony and Get Down, arguably his greatest song. The audience are whipped into a frenzy by this time, and the ovation for the two performers at the end is deafening.
I leave the theatre, wishing I could do it all again. Sometimes, I think Gilbert is the most underrated artist of all time. And that’s saying something when you consider how lofty a position he already holds in our collective hearts.
Thanks, Ray, for all the memories. And may there be many more.