Theatre Royal, Brighton ★★★✩✩
‘IT’S the record most seen in second-hand shops,’ Paul Young remarked to the audience. He was talking No Parlez, his debut chart-topping solo album from 1983 that forms the basis of his new show. It sounded like he was putting himself down — but then such a claim is only possible because No Parlez was so popular in the first place.
When you hear the songs live you recall that for a pop soul album, No Parlez was actually quite eccentric — and the same proved true for this show. In his heyday, Young was seen as a bland smoothie but much of No Parlez hit a peculiar beat.
Anyone hoping to hear Young’s sharp, echoing high tenor was in for a disappointment, though. Either Young was under the weather or his vocal range has taken the most dramatic drop since Marianne Faithfull. For the first few numbers he struggled, carried by his backing vocalists. But willed on by a supportive audience, he became more assured, moving with the swagger of his days fronting soul showband Q-Tips.
The main set culminated in what felt like a viral video from a Moldovan variety programme, the 63-year-old gyrating with his nymphet singers as everybody shouted ‘Sex!’ — the title of the No Parlez closer — repeatedly. But the oddness was integral to the charm. Nobody was pretending it was 1983 — it came with a nod and a wink to the passing of time.