Friday evening saw Mrs S and yours truly sitting in Block 104 of the first direct Arena, Leeds. Our venture’s motive to witness one Richard Paul Astley from the manor of Newton-le-Willows entertain us and 13,000 others with a night of pop and contemporary refrains.

As I’ve written previously, my wife Karen has an endearing quirk of mispronouncing artists names and, prior to the gig, insisted the host for the evening was called Richard Paul Ashtray – Knowing he’d enjoy the quirkiness of the comment, it was a fact I relayed to my adult son Jonny.

Being a bit of a wag***, my lad pointed out that his mum might’ve been right and when singing ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ Rick was referring to cigarettes, not the assumed undying affection for a much loved beau.

*** – When I say my son is a bit of a wag I’m referring to the fact he possesses a rapier-like wit – Not that he’s the wife or girlfriend of a Premiership football…… That being said, though, he does seem quite enamoured with Arsenal’s French midfielder Hershal Vanity-Fair.

Prior to Richard’s (Rick’s) arrival on the Leeds stage, the packed arena was treated to a supporting set from soul singer Gabrielle (or Gabrielled as Karen calls her). The Hackney-born singer who includes among her back catalogue of hits ‘Out of Reach’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘My Name’s Gabrielle, Not Gabrielled’.

The powerfully voiced songstress bestowing upon the assembled Loiners a set of memorable soul/R&B anthems from a similar timeline as those performed later by Ashtrays (errr….. I mean Astley).

Many would opine, an evening in the company of acts of that quality you’re bound to be royally entertained. Unless of course you don’t like Rick Astley and Gabrielle’s brand of showmanship. Under which circumstances you may prefer an evening’s entertainment from Ed Sheringham or Jamie Cullinder.

Rick Astley & Band

When Rick Astley took to the stage, he bequeathed the audience two hours of old Stock, Aitken and Waterman standards, his new (and better) contemporary songs and engagingly witty inter-track dialogue. My only qualm of his set being he didn’t sing the Waterman refrain that was the ‘Minder’ theme tune.

Between songs, Rickety (as absolutely no one calls him) spoke of his upbringing in the north west of England and the influence of his elder siblings post-parental divorce. In particular, Astley  spoke of how the vinyl LP’s his brothers and sister played shaped his own musical journey.

As alluded to above, I prefer listening to the St Helens lad’s newer stuff from his album ’50’ and subsequent recordings than his Stock, Aitken and Waterman anthems. Despite a great fondness for 1980’s music, I don’t think I’d have attended a Rick Astley gig without his contemporary ‘grown up’ musical offerings. His re-invention a few years back and the quality of new material since then something for which he deserves great kudos.

Even though I consumed my first Pot Noodle listening to ‘Whenever You Need Somebody’, ate my inaugural kebab with a backdrop of ‘Together Forever’ and coughed up my first fur ball accompanied by ‘Hold Me in Your Arms’, nostalgia alone would never draw me to any gig.

Venturing homeward in a taxi after the gig, Karen and me both concurred that it’d been a great evening in the musical company of Rick Ashtrays and Gabrielled.

My missus asked me what I’d say to Mr Ashtrays if I could’ve spoken to him post-gig. After much pondering, I responded “I’d probably ask him why he didn’t sing the Minder theme tune ‘I Could Be So Good For You’…… What about you Karen?”

After a brief pause, she countered “I think I’d ask him if Ashtrays was his real moniker or a stage name!”