Photos by David Harris
The revered pop legend had his Melbourne crowd on their feet.
A legend of ’70s to ’80s pop, Billy Ocean is a man whose infectiously joyous stage demeanour can’t help but bring a smile to your face. The Trinidad-English singer’s biggest songs, which topped the charts across the world at the time, are a masterclass in soulful, heartfelt balladry and disco-tinged dance tunes. On Wednesday June 19, Ocean and his superb backing band packed out the Palais Theatre to a rambunctious crowd of adoring fans to put these skills on show.
After Aussie pop group The Chantoozies warmed up the audience with their own brand of ’80s pop, Ocean’s backing band entered the stage without the lead-man in sight. Tight as anything, the band played the beginning of a funky tune as audience members screamed for Ocean to emerge. When the 69-year-old soul singer finally arrived, donning an immaculate grey suit, he exhibited the kind of joyful vitality that should be seen in a fresh-faced musician whose career was just getting started. Smiling ecstatically at the crowd, Ocean garnered hearty cheers when he began to gleefully move his hips along to the music. The magic of performing has certainly not worn off for Billy Ocean yet.
Starting off with funky tracks ‘Are You Ready’ and ‘Nights (Feel Like Gettin’ Down)’, the show really got going when he played his early smash hit ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ from 1976. As soon as the rippling bass and exciting piano licks were played, the entire venue stood to dance and sing their hearts out – not a single seat was left filled as the chorus was belted out alternately by the crowd and the delighted Ocean alike.
But it isn’t all about the danceable tunes with the funk legend. His slower songs, such as ‘The Colour of Love’ flourished with an incredible saxophone solo and a wonderfully tranquil atmosphere. It was his 1985 hit ‘Suddenly’ that amassed the most rapturous applause from fans, with over half of the crowd rising for a standing ovation at the close of this sultry, emotional track.
Ocean discussed how in the more recent years of his career he has wanted to dabble with singing other’s songs, just before he burst into a delightful cover of ‘No Woman No Cry’, a sound rendition of the Bob Marley classic. By this point the front row had all stood up, posing for selfies with Ocean as he sang, high-fiving and fist-bumping and even going for a kiss, as one woman attempted.
The show came to an end with a string of the songwriter’s best hits; ‘Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car’, ‘When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going’ and finally the encore of ‘Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)’ set the crowd alight with an unrestrained singalong and unfettered dance moves. When the night was over, Ocean took a bow with a smile on his face, full of the knowledge that he and his band had done nothing but treat Melbourne to a fabulous performance.
Highlight: Ocean’s smile-inducing dance skills.
Lowlight: Everyone just wanted more!
Crowd favourite: All of Ocean’s biggest hits were played superbly, there couldn’t be one favourite.