Most people will know Roachford primarily for his huge 1989 hit Cuddly Toy – if not first time around, it will be familiar to others for its appearance in the opening credits of Steve Coogan’s 2013 Alan Partridge movie Alpha Papa.
Despite his absence from the charts for a number of years now, there is no doubting the longevity of this talented Londoner. His set included songs from his 11th – yes 11th! – studio album Encore. Although the latest release is an album of covers, this is by no means a ‘cop out’ venture by an artist who has run out of fresh material, rather it is a project in which Roachford wanted to revisit – or as he puts it, “Roachify” – some of the classic songs that had a huge impact on him during his formative years and which, arguably, led him towards a career in music.
Backed with a full live band – including brother Stephen on lead guitar – Roachford is a masterful performer who has lost none of his showmanship over the years. His uplifting, powerfully soulful vocal performance is matched by an equally impressive command of the keys. He marries this with an engaging on-stage style that makes him both warm and endearing but also utterly compelling to watch.
Set highlights included his incredible rendition of Stevie Wonder‘s sublime I Don’t Know Why I Love You, and the post encore solo section which included debut album classics Kathleen and Family Man, as well as a nod to Roachford’s other current activity as a singer with the group Mike & The Mechanics, singing their biggest hit Over My Shoulder. He wrapped up a triumphant set with a storming rendition of Cuddly Toy and then finally, Only To Be With You.
It was a frankly astonishing performance – not just for the fact he remains so criminally underrated, but also for the sheer feeling that Roachford is able to convey through his music. At times it feels like an improvised jam session, while at others, incredibly tight and polished. He is perhaps one of the UK’s most talented soul and funk singers and to see him live was a privilege.
Setlist: The Doctor / I Get High / The Way I Feel / I Don’t Know Why I Love You / Addicted / Ain’t No Sunshine / Family Affair / Having You Around / Ride The Storm / Lay Your Love / This Generation /// Kathleen / Family Man / Over My Shoulder / Cuddly Toy / Only To Be With You
Roachford’s UK tour continues throughout November and into December – remaining dates here.
Review: Martin Allen / Photos: Arta Gailuma