April 17, 2018
“What the hell do you play after ‘Highway To Hell’?” So asked Rick Astley after he blew-up The Paramount in Huntington, NY, not only because he had just played an AC/DC cover, but because he had flawlessly played the song while manning the drum kit. Because the song was the third encore performance of the evening, one could probably guess what would be the next and final song of the evening. Yes, of course it was a stellar and spine-chilling version of Astley’s biggest hit, “Never Gonna Give You Up.” For those in the crowd who hadn’t been movin’ and groovin’ to the beat, this song got the blood flowing and had them feeling their oates!
Astley, who possesses one of the most distinctive and easily recognizable voices in popular music, has sold over 40 million records since he burst on the scene (with “Never Gonna Give You Up”) in 1987. He followed the song with a number of Top 10 hits both in the UK and the US. During his career, Astley has won many fans worldwide and released six studio albums and garnered a Grammy nomination.
On this cool spring evening, The Paramount was packed with a buzz in the air well before the singer’s show began. Fans were milling about, reminiscing and even talking about traveling to Washington, DC, Detroit and Cleveland for upcoming performances. The show began when Astley dressed smartly in black with a black sports coat and black high-top sneakers strolled confidently onto the stage and opened the 90-minute set with “This Old House” a funky song from his 2016 CD, 50 (BMG Records). The band then quickly moved on to “Together Forever.” The crowd reacted as one would expect, singing along and dancing with abandon.
Astley’s four-piece band and back-up singers functioned as a well-oiled machine. The band was funky and tight, and the two backup singers provide sweet and soulful vocals. Astley, himself, was also in prime form. He looked and sounded fantastic—clearly enjoying every minute of his performance. In addition to playing the drums, he also played guitar and displayed and a killer sense of humor and self-deprecating wit while joking with crowd members between songs. This was truly in evidence when he mentioned that the band was going to play some new songs and that some audience members would undoubtedly take this as an “opportunity to go to the bathroom now.” He very much accepted that these songs were bathroom breaks to all but the most fervent followers. He also poked fun at the fact that he was a bad dancer.
The evening was a rousing success. Astley and his band were clearly having a good time, as evidenced by the smiles on their faces. The audience was also thrilled, as evidenced by those singing along, dancing and the loud cheers between songs. Astley delivered all of the hits the fans expected and hoped he’d play and more. Highlights included: “She Wants To Dance With Me,” “Cry for Help” “Hold Me In Your Arms” and “It Would Take a Strong Strong Man.” During the main set, he also surprised some in attendance with a cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”
The encore set began unassumingly with “Whenever You Need Somebody: from the album of the same name (RCA Records, 1987). It was during the remainder of the encores that Astley surprised the crowd. He mixed his song “Take Me to Your Heart” with Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” It worked on many different levels. He spoke about originally being a drummer and how he began playing the instrument at 14. He exclaimed, “Let’s play some AC/DC!, and hopped behind the kit. Both he and the band, then, rocked the venue to its core.
As the evening ended with an extended version performance of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” his biggest hit, the fans were transported back to 1987 and 1988 only to be brought back to the present when Astley paused to thank each member of the band as well as the audience members. The crowd then again turned back the clock to the late ‘80s as Astley and his band stretched the song out and in the end, it became a sing-along. It was a fittingly fun end to a fun night of music.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon
1. This Old House
2. Together Forever
3. Don't Say Goodbye
4. It Would Take a Strong Strong Man
5. Keep Singing
6. She Wants to Dance With Me
8. Shape of You (Ed Sheeran cover)
9. Hold Me in Your Arms
10. Angels On My Side
11. Cry For Help
1. Whenever You Need Somebody
2. Take Me to Your Heart / We Found Love (Rihanna cover)
3. Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover)
4. Never Gonna Give You Up