There are a few undeniable milestone birthdays in one’s life – age 1, age 16, age 30, age 40, and of course, turning 50. A 50th birthday is one of the most important a person will ever have, it says you have existed on this earth a half of a century, allowing you the opportunity to reflect on experiences and achievements of time gone by. For international Pop star Rick Astley, turning 50 years old in February of 2016 marked a renaissance in his outstanding career. For one, the singer-songwriter could proudly smile, looking back on amazing success, selling well over 40 million albums worldwide, attaining 1 hit single after another, but also, building a family.
Celebrating the landmark time in his life, Astley released his eighth studio album in the summer of 2016, rightfully dubbing it 50. His first official album since 2005’s Portrait, seeing 2013’s My Red Book never saw the light of day, 50 became Astley’s first LP since his 1987 debut, Whenever You Need Somebody, to hit number one. Additionally, Astley took to the road for extensive touring, visiting the North American region for the first time in years, only to discover his music continues to hold a special place in heart of fans. Now 52 years old, Astley continues to tour in support of 50, and on the evening of Tuesday, April 17, 2018, he and his band transformed an ordinary night into a extraordinary one down at The Paramount in Huntington, New York.
A part of his spring North American tour that extends through May 1st, just days prior to visiting Long Island’s The Paramount, Astley sold out gigs in Toronto, as well as Montreal. Impressive within itself, just prior to Astley’s 9 PM start time at The Paramount, the theater was packed pretty tightly with men, women, and children of all ages eager to hear the vocalist perform. Then, without warning, Astley, with a full band consisting of a drummer, bassist, guitarist, keyboardist, and two backing vocalists, arrived on stage to a roaring welcome.
Immediately kicking off with one of his newer songs, 2016’s “This Old House,” he showed off that he not only still has the voice, but skills to write meaningful music. For those who are late to the party in regards to Astley’s comeback record, 50, it is a mature collection of songs that are soulful, hopeful, and engaging until the final note. Living up to the celebration of Astley turning 50, the songs beam the sentiment of a man who is grateful for what he has, someone who still has faith in humanity. Why is this important? Because it remained the overall theme of Astley’s visit to The Paramount. Sure, he would play all the hits everyone knows and love, such as “Together Forever” and “It Would Take a Strong Strong Man,” but attention should also be drawn to the uplifting newer piece “Keep Singing,” a song Astley picked as 50’s lead single a couple of years ago.
All this in mind, Astley, obviously a more mature man than the babyfaced youngster who danced and sang his way into hearts on MTV back in the late ’80s, still could hit all the right notes, making the live experience delightfully accurate to the original studio recordings. Playfully confessing to the crowd there would in fact be dance moves during his set, unless of course he stumbled in the dark, Astley moved about the stage with ease, singing with passion, while also making eye contact with various spectators – he even asked an individual with a walking stick how they were doing. All signs of a man who truly cares about what he is doing and those who came out to see him on Tuesday night, Astley also showcased plenty of personality, keeping the room in high spirits. In fact, he was full of engaging stories, briefly explaining a little bit about himself, where he is from, and his perspective on life.
Not details the average listener may be aware of, but Astley is the fourth and youngest child of his family. Witnessing his parents’ split when he was only 5, naturally, like an child, frightened and confused from the experience, during his performance at The Paramount he humbly said, if it were not for his older siblings, he does not know where he would be in life. This is a factor that can be heard in the lyrics of “Angels on My Side,” a song Astley also dedicated to his band during the set. Amidst all the personal connections taking place inside the walls of The Paramount, Astley also kept everyone swinging with older favorites such as “She Wants to Dance With Me” and “Hopelessly,” a track recently reintroduced into his live shows.
Admitting he sometimes changes the scheduled song selections mid-set, the energetic singer throw out some surprises, covering the modern Ed Sheeran radio hit “Shape of You” to a positive response. Showing he is quite keen on music of all types, new and old, his rendition of the track was pretty much spot on. That dancing vibe did not seize, because other Astley originals such as “Hold Me in Your Arms” inspired a male versus female crowd chant of the song’s main title as prompted by Astley and his lovely female vocalists. Adding the element of interaction to the show, a sense of love, mutual and romantic, spread through the air. Speaking of the backing vocalists, the two young ladies really shined brightly when they were called on during his 1991 hit “Cry For Help” as emotions ran high thanks to the sentiment of the track’s music and lyrics.
Already a spectacularly enriching concert experience, Astley and company would return for an encore that would include another of his memorable hits, “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Inviting the audience to sing along, the smile on Astley’s face spoke a thousand words of how appreciative he truly is. Additionally, he was pleased by the zealous reaction, expressing how much he loves America, its people, and how overtly emotive they are. Ramping up that very emotion, Astley throw yet another curveball in the final moments of his encore, stepping behind the drum kit for a closing cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” Owning it, Astley and his band rocked hard, sending each and every person in the audience out into the early weeknight a little happier.
Overall, Rick Astley has proven that his return to the spotlight is not to be looked at as a novelty, but one of an extremely talented musician who has plenty more to offer. That in mind, Astley is scheduled to return with new music sooner than later, so it should be interesting to see how he follows up the powerfully soulful 50. More than just a voice, Astley is a songwriter, and in his own words, perhaps the theme of 50’s lyrics show he is a man of strong faith, but his is more in spiritual hope in people. A lovely point of view, here is to many more years of Rick Astley sharing his music with the world.