Relax, singer-songwriters. It takes fifty years to get this good. Five decades, big adventures, getting knocked down and going again. Leo Sayer’s back, on the 22-date JUST A BOY AT 70 tour. Rising above, hurling emotion, telling it as it is about love, life and the bloody mess we’re in. His new album, SELFIE, which he performed, arranged, produced and wrote most of the songs for, is a masterpiece. Both joyful and a painful listen. Laser lyrics. Compressed writing. Leo knows.
Islington’s sublime Union Chapel was awash last night with football-chant die-hards. The kind of devotees who know all the words, and bellow them. Many were raucous, brawling fierce, earning tuts from the weekly-shampooed. Leo, small and slight up there before the giant font, met them head-on. The little guy is gigantic on stage, backing down from no one. He blisters with a look. Torches with a smile. Makes love to his harp, blues and soul.
It’s the huge Seventies hits, inevitably, that grab them: 'The Show Must Go On', 'One Man Band', 'Long Tall Glasses', 'Moonlighting', 'You Make Me Feel Like Dancing', 'When I Need You' (the Albert Hammond/Carole Bayer Sager gem, number one for our man both here and over there in 1977), 'How Much Love'. His cover of Bobby Vee's 'More Than I Can Say'. His 1983 hit 'Orchard Road', a plaintive plea at the beginning of the end of a marriage. ‘Train’, ‘Restless Years’, ‘To the River’. ‘One Step at a Time’ and ‘Selfie’ stood out, from the new one.
True artists do it the hard way. Paying dues. Leo did the whole art student/hotel porter/street busker number. Our David Courtney found him. They co-wrote Roger Daltrey's first solo hit 'Giving it all Away'. (Daltrey also recorded 'I'm a One-Man Band', a year before Leo). They teamed with Adam Faith, who did the deals. Giving it all away. Only when Leo divorced first wife Jan in 1985 was it revealed that Faith, ironically a money man and author of a financial column in a UK national, had mismanaged Leo's investments. Leo sued. They settled out of court for pennies. He was then forced to sue his label Chrysalis, to win back his song publishing. In 1996 he was back in court against his new management for mismanaging his pension fund. Unable to afford the distance, Leo was forced to walk away. He toured himself back to black. The exuberance of the 1999 album 'Live in London' is testament to the tsunami of energy that carried him through the tough.
Tribulations leave scars. Leo was tired, and in need of sun and oxygen. He found both 10,000 miles away, withdrawing to Sydney in 2005 with second love Dona. He became an Australian citizen four years later. In 2006 he scored his second UK number one, with the remixed 'Thunder in my Heart', making his first UK top ten appearance for a quarter of a century.
So he's 70, the plucky clown. And I’m Shakira. SELFIE is the second coming. Buy this album. Don’t miss these dates. Leo’s contribution to our music industry has been, and continues to be, massive. So where is his Ivor Novello?