Leo Sayer – Live Review – York Barbican

Leo Sayer Live Review York Barbican

By Roger Crow, October 2022

It’s one of those autumnal Friday nights: you finish work and all you want to do is eat junk food, watch rubbish telly and relax. But 20-plus miles away, a music legend is playing York, and for me it’s the closing chapter of a recent story that started on Mount Etna.

I’ve been in some strange places when agreeing to interview celebs, but never stood on a volcano. When the email came through for a chance to interview Leo Sayer, I agreed immediately, and a few weeks later, we chatted about his life, career, and of course music. And naturally it rekindled an interest in Leo’s work.

All those classics which, with the exception of ‘Thunder in My Heart’, seem to have vanished from radio airplay. So I started playing them, a lot. And the hugely under rated ‘Orchard Road’ became one of those glorious lost gems. A last song at night kind of thing. It lends itself to sleep, and not in a bad way.

So, back to this Friday night, and after the ritual of driving round looking for a parking space, and then getting tickets, we settle in. No support act (thanks to the merch guy for letting us know), and then a cacophony of applause as Leo and the band arrive on stage.

Can he still cut the mustard in the autumn of his career? Will the voice hold out? Well thankfully yes on both counts. In fact the vocals are on top form, as is the band.

We’re treated to all the classics of course. ‘One Man Band’; ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’, and having watched his 1970s episode of The Muppet Show again recently, a track which will now be synonymous with him stuck up a tree in the wild, ‘When I Need You’.

It’s like a part of your childhood was out on hold for decades, and with Leo living in Australia, there were very few of those UK TV appearances in recent years, so a generation seemed to have skipped those amazing songs.

(As a side note, watch the closing titles of Ben Affleck movie Deep Water for a terrific version of ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’).

I’d say the average age at the gig was 50, which is great for those of us who grew up with those solid gold smashes, but a shame as a new generation missed an experience on that autumnal night. Sayer is a terrific showman, and those vocals are every bit as good now as the time half a century ago when he first started making waves.

There’s a terrific story about the origins of classic ‘Moonlighting’, and a few tracks I’ve never heard.


Leo Sayer Live Review York Barbican gigBut every one is a treat, especially ‘Orchard Road’.

The restorative power of music never ceases to amaze me, especially on a Friday night when the batteries are running low. Leo’s gig is like being plugged into the mains, and following a break, we’re back in the thick of it with ‘Thunder in My Heart’, and all those other favourites.

Following the inevitable encore, he and the band return with the closing songs and a heartfelt speech which is hugely touching. As is the sight of folks dancing in the aisles.

Inevitably he ends with the song that started it all. Yes, Roger Daltrey may have covered ‘Giving It All Away’, but there’s no denying it’s a Sayer song.

The gig, like so many others, was put on hold due to Covid, and like so many these days, it’s all the more precious as we recall lockdown and all those bands and acts we didn’t get to see.

And that live experience of a true master is phenomenal. He deserved far more respect than he received when a car crash show like Celebrity Big Brother became the worst experience of his life, and may have set his UK career back years.

Thankfully those days are long behind us, and Leo could teach many performers a thing or two about singing, songwriting and winning an audience over.

In what has been a fantastic year for live music, Leo Sayer is up there with the best of them.

I could have done without a spotlight shining right into my eyes during the gig; the after effect did mean I was seeing spots like the opening of Dr No. Thankfully one man shone brighter than any of the illuminations, and deserved every second of that standing ovation.

Cheers Leo, for 50 years of great music and one unforgettable night.


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