‘I’ve still got my voice, my hair is still growing. I can’t complain’. Leo Sayer feels like dancing all over again at York Barbican

THE rearranged show must go on for Leo Sayer at York Barbican tonight.

Delayed by the pandemic, it now forms part of a 2022 tour to mark the Shoreham-by-Sea-born singer and songwriter’s 50th anniversary in pop. “I was supposed to be playing in 2020, but then had to hold off the tour for Covid, but all the shows have been rearranged, and if anything, it’s better doing it now,” says Leo, who moved to Australia more than 20 years ago.

Back on home soil, Sayer and his band will perform a Seventies and Eighties’ hit-filled set sure to feature Thunder In My Heart, Moonlighting, One Man Band, I Can’t Stop Loving You, More Than I Can Say, Have You Ever Been In Love, When I Need You, You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and, yes, debut smashThe Show Must Go On.

At 74, “I’ve still got my voice, my hair is still growing. I can’t complain. It’s been lovely coming back. I did a show at the start of the year in Sydney Harbour…one show and then I got Covid,” says Leo, whose home is in a beautiful village high up, between Sydney and Canberra.

“It’s the equivalent of the Caingorms. I love the space, the freedom. I moved there in 2001, and I’ve no regrets at all, but it’s lovely coming back [for the tour].”

Fifty years, Leo, fifty years. Can you believe it?! “It’s like time compresses in an incredible way. You forget the years passing. I’ve got three stents in my heart, a partial kneecap replacement and Crohn’s disease, but with the right medication you can deal with it and I can feel fantastic,” he says.

“I’m still ambitious, I’m still the same guy who started out 50 years ago, still trying to prove myself by finding avenues that mark me out. I’ve always been a great believer in individuality.”

Leo had to break into a dog-eat-dog Seventies’ pop world. “We all hated each other. It was like a war,” he says, the laughter in his voice giving away that he might just be exaggerating. “It was such a competitive industry. If you look back, you can remember all the songs in the Top 40. That music really counted.”

Managed by pop star and actor Adam Faith, Leo struck up a partnership with songwriter and producer David Courtney, co-writing such songs as Long Tall Glasses and Giving It All Away (a 1973 top five hit for The Who’s Roger Daltrey).

“Adam Faith was very dynamic as a pop star, who did the Budgie TV series and a movie with David Essex [Stardust], and wanted to get me a record deal with Warner Music in America. He managed to get Joe from Warner down to Brighton, where David was based, and took them to a fish and chip shop,” recalls Leo.

“Just around the corner, a little guy called Leo Sayer was playing, and on the way back, I was told I had a deal with Warner.”

Sayer’s love of individuality was reflected in his decision to paint his face in the Pierrot clown mode for his early performances. “I loved Les Enfants du Paradis – Children Of Paradise – a movie made at the end of the Second World War by Marcel Carné,” says Leo, recalling the classic French drama that charts the ill-fated love of a mime artist and a sometime actress in 1840s’ Paris.

“I loved how he [the mime artist, played by Jean-Louis Barrault] could describe himself in gestures, rather than speech.”

Sitting with Roger Daltrey, “on the wall were all these big Pierrot pictures, and he said, ‘how do you see yourself’, and I said, ‘like that’, like Jean-Louis Barrault,” says Leo.

He duly borrowed a costume from a street performer called Julian. “He was 6ft tall, I’m 5 ft 4! It became my signature look, and it was extraordinary when we first did it, getting in a famous make-up lady from Australia,” he says.

“They wouldn’t let me look at the mirror as a black bathing cap was put on and the make-up applied, the dark eyes and the dots on the cheeks, and then suddenly I could look at the mirror, and from that moment I knew I’d found my look to be released to the world and really be transformed into Leo Sayer [he was born Gerard Hugh Sayer].

“After shows, I could rush around the block, stand outside in my T-shirts and jeans, and I’d hear people saying, ‘Hey, that guy Leo was amazing’. I got to find out at first hand what they thought!”

Later, Leo would shed that skin. “That was terribly scary. It was me that decided to stop it, which shocked people, but I only ever wanted to do it for a year. I’d seen Gilbert O’Sullivan being stuck for ages with that image of the little lad in the shorts and cap,” he says.

Leo made the transition when he was invited to be the opening act for Rick Wakeman at the Crystal Palace Bowl, South London. “Once I was without the mask, I thought I’d be terrified, but my [now ex-] wife and I put together this Great Gatsby look with the cloth cap, when you had to go from one image to another, as you did with all that glam rock going on, and though it was a baptism of fire, it felt right.”

The hits stacked up, the songwriting continues to this day. “It’s important to still write songs, but over the last couple of albums I’ve been working through a backlog of recordings, like the demos from when I worked with Alan Tarney in 1983. It’s time to put those songs out there,” says Leo. “It’s amazing how those songs from the Seventies and Eighties still sound so current.”

During the pandemic, Leo penned a couple of lockdown songs. “One was about Melbourne, the most locked-down city in the world, My City In Lockdown, which came out on YouTube,” he says. “Then there was How Did We Get Here?, about everyone blaming each other, in the way that disinformation becomes reality.”

Covid-19 reintroduced Leo to wearing masks – albeit of a different kind – all those years later, and although they have now been largely discarded by the public, “I wore a mask on the Tube in London the other day and the negative comments I got really surprised me.” he says.

Leo Sayer plays York Barbican tonight (7/10/2022), 7.30pm. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond: The Mirror Crack’d and other cracking ideas. Hutch’s List No. 100, from The Press

On the case: Susie Blake’s bandaged Miss Marple and Oliver Boot’s Detective Inspector Craddock in the Original Theatre Company’s production of The Mirror Crack’d. Picture: Ali Wright

COINCIDING with Miss Marple’s arrival, Charles Hutchinson  applies his investigative skills to to pick out the best prospects to see, whether usual or unusual.  

Mystery of the week: Original Theatre Company in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2pm, Thursday; 2.30pm, Saturday

SUSIE Blake’s Miss Marple, Sophie Ward and Joe McFadden lead the cast in Rachel Wagstaff’s stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1962 psychological thriller, a story of revenge and the dark secrets that we all hide.

In the sleepy village of St Mary Mead, a new housing estate is making villagers curious and fearful. Even stranger, a rich American film star has bought the Manor House. Cue a vicious murder; cue Jane Marple defying a sprained ankle to unravel a web of lies, tragedy and danger. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

On the move: Dance time for the Barbara Taylor School of Dancing at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Every body dance: It’s Dance Time 2022, Barbara Taylor School of Dancing, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, today, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

IT’S Dance Time is “a festival arrangement of dance, infused together to arrange a variety of dance styles”, featuring the whole Barbara Taylor School of Dancing intake.

From tiny toes to fully grown, this song-and- dance parade through the years takes in Commercial Ballet, Tap, and Freestyle Jazz, finishing off with excerpts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Bingham String Quartet: Playing the first Saturday evening concert of the new York Late Music season

Season launch of the week: York Late Music presents Jakob Fichert, today, 1pm, and Bingham String Quartet, today, 7.30pm, St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, York

ON the first weekend of its 2022-2023 season, York Late Music returns with its regular format of a lunchtime and evening concert. First up, pianist Jakob Fichert marks the 75th birthday of American composer John Adams by performing his works China Gates and American Berserk.

Later, the Bingham String Quartet play string quartets by Beethoven, Schnittke, LeFanu and Tippett, preceded by a talk at 6.45pm by Steve Bingham with a complimentary glass of wine or juice. Tickets: latemusic.org or on the door.

Graham Norton: Discussing his darkly comic new novel, Forever Home, at York Theatre Royal

Novel event of the week:  An Evening With Graham Norton, York Theatre Royal, Monday, 7.30pm

BBC broadcaster, Virgin Radio presenter and novelist Graham Norton is on a promotional tour for his new book, Forever Home, published this week by Coronet. Set in a small Irish town, it revolves around divorced teacher Carol, whose second chance of love brings her unexpected connection, a shared home and a sense of belonging in a darkly comic story of coping with life’s extraordinary challenges.

In conversation with author and presenter Konnie Huq, Norton will discuss the novel’s themes and how he creates his characters and atmospheric locations, share tales from his career and reveal what inspired him to pick up a pen and start writing, with room for audience questions too. Tickets update: sold out; for returns only, check yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Sax to the max: Jean Toussaint leads his quintet at the NCEM

Jazz gig of the week: Jean Toussaint Quintet, National Centre for Early Music, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

SAXOPHONIST Jean Toussaint, who came to prominence in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1982, after his Berklee College of Music studies in Boston, has released 12 albums since moving to London in 1987.

His latest, Songs For Sisters Brothers And Others, reflects on the turbulent Covid-19 years. “The pandemic caused me to focus on the fragility of life and the fact we’re here one moment and gone the next,” he says of penning songs as a “tribute to my wonderful siblings while they were still around to enjoy it”.

Joining him in York will be Freddie Gavita, trumpet, Jonathan Gee, piano, Conor Murray, bass, and Shane Forbes, drums. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

Feel like dancing? Leo Sayer steps out at York Barbican on Friday

The rearranged show must go on: Leo Sayer, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

DELAYED by the pandemic, Leo Sayer’s York show now forms part of a 2022 tour to mark his 50th anniversary in pop.

Sayer, 74, who lives in Australia, is back on home soil with his not-so-one-man band to perform a setlist sure to feature  One Man Band, Thunder In My Heart, Moonlighting, I Can’t Stop Loving You, More Than I Can Say, Have You Ever Been In Love, When I Need You, You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and, yes, The Show Must Go On. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Buzzing: Maisie Adam heads home for Harrogate Theatre gig. Picture: Matt Crockett

Homecoming of the week: Maisie Adam: Buzzed, Harrogate Theatre, October 8, 8pm

BORN in Pannal and former head girl at St Aidan’s in Harrogate, anecdotal stand-up Maisie Adam heads home next Saturday on her first full-scale British tour to discuss relationships, house plants, her footballing aplomb, hopefully her beloved Leeds United and that haircut, the one to rival David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane for multiple choices across one barnet.

Adam played her first gig at the Ilkley Literature Festival in 2016 and won the nationwide So You Think You’re Funny? Competition in 2017. Now she pops up on Mock The Week and Have I Got News and co-hosts the podcast That’s A First. She also plays Leeds City Varieties on Friday. Box office: Harrogate, 01423 502116 or harrogatetheatre.co.uk; Leeds, 0113 243 0808 or leedsheritagetheatres.com.

Digging the digital: The poster for Foto/Grafic’s Human After All digital-media exhibition at Fossgate Social and Micklegate Social

One exhibition, two locations: Foto/Grafic, Human After All, at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social, York, today until November 27.

TWO sister bars that “show a bit of art every now and then championing local and innovative creativity” present Foto/Grafic’s group show from this weekend.

Human After All features digital-media artwork by young and early-career artists in celebration of their “leap from physical earthbound creations to the stratosphere of the unlimited digital toolbox”.

December Morning, by Judy Burnett

Exhibition launch of the week outside York: Judy Burnett, Time And Tide, Morten Gallery, High Street, Old Town, Bridlington, today until November 13; open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm

YORK artist Judy Burnett’s latest show of paintings and collages at Morten Gallery winds its way across the Wolds from the River Ouse in York to the sea.

Over time, water in all its forms has created the East Yorkshire landscape, firstly as a melting glacier at the end of the Ice Age, gouging out deep valleys and folds on its way down to the Vale of York.

The River Ouse then connects with other Yorkshire waterways to spill out into the North Sea at the mouth of the Humber and return on the tide to crash onto the cliffs of the Wolds coastline.

Judy lives by the Ouse in York, with a view from her studio window directly onto the riverbank, leading to the changing effects of light on moving water being an inspiration for her work. The colours and rhythms of the water alter with the weather, the time of day, the seasons and the frequent floods.

This interest in the luminosity and movement of water is also reflected in Judy’s many paintings of the Yorkshire coast, most particularly at Flamborough Head and Bridlington.

During the past year, she has made many trips across the Wolds, observing the rich tapestry of the countryside that links the river to the sea.

Her sketches are completed on-site in varying weather conditions. Back in the studio, they are developed in a range of media, utilising hand-printed collage paper and paint. The aim is to keep all the mark-making fresh and spontaneous, to echo the power of the elements at the time of observation.

 A Meet The Artist event will be held on October 22, from 1pm to 3pm, when “you are welcome to join us for a glass of wine and to enjoy the 30 pieces of work, together with Judy’s sketchbooks on display,” says gallery owner Jenny Morten.

Leo Sayer and Squeeze’s Chris Difford to join Jools Holland for York Barbican gig

Jools Holland: on tour for 32 autumn and winter dates

BOOGIE WOOGIE pianist Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra will be joined on tour for the first time by veteran singer Leo Sayer, as well as original Squeeze compadre Chris Difford.

Both Sayer and Difford will perform at York Barbican on November 11, Harrogate International Centre on November 27 and Leeds First Direct Arena on the 32-date itinerary’s closing night, December 20. Sayer, but not Difford, will be a guest at Holland’s Sheffield City Hall show on December 3.

Tickets for Holland’s 24th autumn and winter tour will go on sale at 10am on Friday (February 7) via Ticketmaster, See Tickets, Ticketline and Stargreen, as well as the venues.

Leo Sayer: touring with Jools Holland’s orchestra for the first time in 2020

Joining jaunty Jools too will be two long-term participants, gospel, blues and soul singer Ruby Turner, who has written songs with Holland, and original Squeeze drummer Gilson Lavis. Regular vocalist Louise Marshall will be there each show too.

Sayer, 71, who became an Australian citizen in 2009 after moving to Sydney, New South Wales, in 2005, charted in the Top Ten with all of his first seven hits between 1973 and 1978: The Show Must Go On, One Man Band, Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance), Moonlighting, You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, the chart-topping When I Need You and How Much Love.

Further success followed with I Can’t Stop Loving You (Though I Try) and More Than I Can Say in 1978, Have You Ever Been In Love in 1982 and Thunder In My Heart, contributing vocals to Meck’s number one in 2006.

Chris Difford: Squeezing in autumn and winter dates with Jools Holland

Difford, Holland’s fellow Squeeze co-founder, has worked through the years with Glen Tilbrook, also writing with Elton John, Paul Carrack, Lisa Stansfield, Bryan Ferry, Helen Shapiro, Elvis Costello and Holland too, who calls him “the John Lennon of London, the John Betjeman of Blackheath and the Alain Delon of Deptford”.

Holland and his orchestra have performed previously with Eddi Reader, Lulu, Joss Stone, Fine Young Cannibals’ Roland Gift, Spice Girl Melanie C and Marc Almond. For his 2020 tour, UB40 featuring Ali and Astro will join him for three November gigs in Guildford and London.  

Jools is recording his next album, whose focus will be on piano stylings, duets and collaborations with top instrumentalists, for autumn release.

Tickets for York Barbican, where Holland last played on October 31 2019, will be on sale on 0203 356 5441, at yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from the Barbican box office; Harrogate, 01423 502116 or harrogatetheatre.co.uk; Leeds, firstdirectarena.com; Sheffield, 0114 278 9789 or sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.