Neil Sedaka performing at The Symphony Hall Birmingham on Thursday 14th September 2017.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

It was a giant screen, a single microphone, a solitary piano and a stool that saw a packed Symphony Hall welcome Neil Sedaka back to Birmingham last night.

It was sixty years ago this year that Sedaka had made his first appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and signed a recording contract with RCA. Since then he has clocked up sales of over 25 million records before he reached the age of 23 and has had a career that has seen him write over 600 songs.

Whilst waiting for the legend to make an appearance we were reminded that we were in the presence of greatness as the big screen projected images of the calibre of artists who have covered Sedaka’s catalogue; artists such as Frankie Valli, Tony Christie, Peggy Lee, The Carpenters, Elvis Presley and even Marge and Homer Simpson.

And when the great man did enter the stage it was a standing ovation that greeted him as he took his place behind his piano and started his 90 minute set with One More Ride On The Merry Go Round. With his songs brimming with cosy familiarity, Sedaka’s voice never missed a note and was as strong as ever. Going Nowhere and The Hungry Years were simply rendered at the piano, whilst he told the crowd that Solitaire had been covered by over 50 artists as it earned him the biggest ovation of the evening.

Between songs he entertained with lots of stories such as when in 1974 Elton John agreed to back him on the release of his comeback song, but he turned on the radio to hear that Lea Roberts had beaten him to. Asking Elton John if he could release it straight away, Laughter In The Rain went on to be Sedaka’s second million selling song.

Oh Carol was written when he was at High School for his then girlfriend Carole King and Where The Boys Are was the only song written specifically for someone else; Connie Francis. His first million selling song, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do was very well received and The 2009 Salsa Song saw him leave the comfort of his piano stool and deliver the song in Spanish accompanied by a little bit of dad salsa dancing.

He gave a sentimental nod to lyricist Howard Greenfield with a moving introduction followed by Our Last Song Together, which was as it says, the last song the duo wrote together. The beautiful ballad, You, earned him another standing ovation whilst Calendar Girl induced a mass sing along.

Finishing his main set with the song covered by Homer Simpson, Love Will Keep Us Together, you notice that it is only his knees and hips that have aged. Not quite being done, he came back for his encore with a trio of sing-along party tunes, That’s When The Music Takes Me, (Is This The Way To) Amarillo and I Go Ape as a farewell reminder of his pop versatility, but it was new song I Do It For The Applause that summed the whole evening up. With the voice of a young man, pitch perfect and secure, the audience would have had him sing all night and he looked as though he would have been able to oblige.

Having last toured in 2014, and now being 78 years old, you have to ask if we are likely to see him again, and as he waved to the crowd and took his final bow, you definitely wouldn’t want to bet against it. Because for Neil Sedaka it would seem that breaking up really is very hard to do.