herald

Monday 24 September 2018

Sayer's early smash hits still hit the right spot.

MUSICIAN: Sayer seemed destined for greatness but, sadly, tailed off
MUSICIAN: Sayer seemed destined for greatness but, sadly, tailed off

ALTHOUGH the public perception of him now is that of a jolly if somewhat lightweight popstar, there was a time when Leo Sayer appeared to be coming from somewhere very strange indeed.

When we first encountered him towards the end of 1973 he was dressed as a Pierrot singing The Show Must Go On, a bizarrely constructed song of failure and rejection delivered in a piercing falsetto.

However, given that this was a period in which genuinely weird acts like David Bowie, Roxy Music, Cockney Rebel and T. Rex were moving into the mainstream, Sayer didn't look all that out of place and, naturally, the single reached No.2.

Its accompanying album Silverbird was a very strong collection of songs – performed marvellously on a memorable night in the National Stadium – and you felt that here was someone who'd been honing his talents in the wings for years and was simply waiting for the right shot at the limelight. Indeed, Sayer and his songwriting partner Dave Courtney were primed for this launch, having been taken under the management wing of Adam Faith, and provided all the songs for Roger Daltrey's debut solo album, including the poignant hit single Giving It All Away.

But when Sayer went to America in 1976 to record his fourth album, Endless Flight, many of his original fans began to slip away.

With the maelstrom of punk brewing, Sayer's decision to go for a disco-influenced sound proved too much for some. And while he had massive trans-Atlantic hits with You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and the schmaltzy Carole Bayer-Sager/Albert Hammond weepie When I Need You, that was where he lost critical ground.

Granted, he did regain focus somewhat with the Philly-influenced Thunder in My Heart and while he could still occasionally knock out a single like Orchard Road to remind us of his original promise, the middle of the road was, sadly, beckoning for him. Still, that opening burst was something to behold.

Leo Sayer brings his Silverbird 40th Anniversary tour to the Olympia tomorrow night.

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