Cat Stevens - City Hall Review

Tom Harrow-Smith reviews Cat Stevens at City Hall

Tom Harrow-Smith
5th December 2016

Before attending Friday night’s concert, I did not fully realise quite how big a deal Cat Stevens latest UK and US tour was. But this was the first time he had toured on such a scale since his sudden departure from the music scene in the 1970s, which he discussed with the crowd towards the end of his set. As he eloquently put it, he ‘took a lot of punches from the media’ and was given a hard time for something he decided to change in his life which was taken the wrong way. We of course all knew this was his conversion to Islam, and that the now self-titled Yusuf Islam was not seen again in this context until just a few years ago.

“This was Cat’s world, Cat’s attic, which symbolised his youth”

This tour has seen him play songs that have not been performed live by Stevens since the seventies, for which I felt overwhelmingly privileged to have been invited into his attic for the evening. That was the background for the concert, an intricately built set of an attic, set in front of a smoking London skyline on a full moon night. This was Cat’s world, Cat’s attic, which symbolised his youth growing up above his parent’s café in Shaftesbury Avenue.

He talked the audience through his inspirations behind his music, with a different story behind each one, even playing ‘Twist and Shout’ on vinyl and proceeding to do a little dance for us. The Beatles influence on his music was evident throughout the show, covering both ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘All You Need is Love’, which were a nice treat. He showed us a few of his new releases, but this was about him revisiting his early music career, and the tracks that have driven people from up and down the country to see him perform live for the first time in some of the crowd’s lifetimes.

“an experience I never expected to have, but one I am sure I will always look back on”

Yet most of the audience were those who grew up listening to Stevens’ music and this was clearly a huge moment to finally watch him play hit after hit for many of them. Hearing tracks such as ‘Tea for Tillerman’, ‘Peace Train’, ‘The Wind’, and of course ‘Wild World’ was an experience I never expected to have, but one I am sure I will always look back on. And I owe that all to his son, who Yusuf told the crowd was the reason why he came back to music. According to the artist, one day his son came back home with a guitar, which he decided to pick up, and suddenly realised his ‘work was not finished yet’. We can all be thankful for that then, and with a new album on the horizon, hopefully this will be the start of much more from Stevens.

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