WHILE Joe Cocker is a man of his word, he is a man of few words on stage.
The 66-year-old Brit told an enthralled crowd at Kings Park in 2008 that he would return and last weekend, he honoured the promise at South Perth’s Sir James Mitchell Park.
However, before the popular bluesy soul rocker took to the stage, another gravely voiced singer revved up the crowd with a mix of pub rock and rhythm and blues.
George Thorogood and the Destroyers quickly turned the sprawling venue into a party with a high quota of songs from his career peak Live album from 1986.
Fans lapped up numbers like I Drink Alone, Bad to the Bone and One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer that were all played with plenty of gusto by the flashy frontman and his tight band.
Live show favourite Move it on Over also got an airing, as did Get a Haircut, a song Thorogood said discerning audiences appreciated for its “intellectual lyrics”.
Some 25 years since that hugely popular live album, Thorogood’s infectious straight-up rock style can still keep a crowd moving – even a security guard front of stage couldn’t stop himself bopping along.
After a brief interval, an unassuming Joe Cocker – decked out in black – strolled onto the stage for a low-key entrance and launched into new song Get On from his recent Hard Knocks album.
It was all business from then on for the Sheffield-born singer during the next 90 minutes, only stopping to say “it’s good to be back in Perth” and thanking support act Thorogood about an hour into the set.
With such an early end to a Saturday night show at 9.45pm, the singer might have had to dispense with the small talk to keep the songs coming.
Instead of banter, fans were treated to an impressive Cocker songbook selection with Feelin’ Alright, The Letter and a reggae-inspired take on the Lovin Spoonful’s Summer in the City all proving early highlights.
While the lack of crowd interaction was a drawback, it was hard to find fault with John Robert Cocker who can still nail demanding vocals of music milestones like You are so Beautiful and his cover of With a Little Help from My Friends.
There was plenty of customary swaying from the crowd for soft pop number Up Where We Belong, while Unchain My Heart and You Can Leave Your Hat On got the crowd out of their seats.
With numerous tours and 21 studio albums behind him, Cocker’s joy of performing is still evident with an ever-increasing number of tiny jumps into the air after songs.
Ably assisted by an impressive seven-piece outfit that produced some fuller big band sounds, Cocker rounded out proceedings with blistering versions of The Beatles’ She Came in Through the Bathroom Window and concert closer Cry Me a River.
The good news for fans hoping to get another dose of Cocker is that he did tell the crowd to “keep rocking” and he would be back. Possibly next time round, he might have a story or two to share.
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What: Joe Cocker (with George Thorogood)
When: Saturday, February 19
Where: Sir James Mitchell Park, South Perth
Reviewed by: Michael Gill
Photographed by: Neil Mulligan