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Live Review: Michael Bolton – 25th October 2021 – Royal Albert Hall, London, UK

4 min read

As the world gradually reacclimatizes to being back in packed venues again following 18 months of lockdowns and the shut-down of live entertainment thanks to COVID, it was long overdue to have a bit of musical nostalgia in our lives, and soul crooner and 80’s mullet donning icon Michael Bolton served up just that last night as he touched down in the capital for his Love Songs tour of the UK.

While the musician was forced to scrap some dates earlier this month due to poor health, the singer, known for power ballads like Time, Love and Tenderness and Said I Loved You…But I Lied, was on top form for fans as his arrival in London filled every seat of the iconic Royal Albert Hall.

With an extensive catalogue of records going back to the early 70’s, there was no effort required in terms of putting together a thorough set list for fans. The show, like his latest record, A Symphony of Hits, was a celebration of his success in the music industry and was more of a greatest hits style show than one promoting any new work.

Sharply dressed in a black suit and trainers and his platinum hair shining beneath the lights of the world famous Albert Hall, Bolton was fragile for the majority of the set. At 68 years old, the singer was definitely an more delicate version of the vibrant performer we remember from his peak career videos and live performances, but as soon as his voice began to ring through the hall to his opening cover of Ben E King’s Stand By Me, we knew exactly who we were watching.

The set list overflowed with hits from his own penmanship as well his take on some of music’s biggest records in music. A songwriter that has penned tracks for musicians across the genre spectrum – from Kiss and Joe Cocker through to Cher, Barbra Streisand and Lady Gaga – Bolton took on some soulful heavyweights last night with gorgeous renditions of Bill Withers’ Lean On Me, Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay and Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough as well as more pop oriented covers like Bee Gees ballad To Love Somebody which sat early on in his London performance.

It was his own numbers however that peaked the audience’s attention the most. 80’s pop rock balladry was in full force when Bolton unleashed signature hits like the upbeat How Can We Be Lovers and timeless Time, Love and Tenderness with the crowd belting out each track alongside the hit maker. These were the two standouts of the night with the crowd – made up predominantly of woman in their late 40’s and 50’s– clearly having the time of their lives as they tried to record key moments in the night – despite eager security rushing to refrain their filming pursuits.

Always generous with crowd interaction, he often threw in jokes that gave the show a bit more of a human touch. As the crowd would shout out the occasional ‘I love you’ to the singer, he often joked that all he could hear was a murmuring due to his age and distance from the punter; at one point the singer replied to an affectionate caller “I love you too even though I don’t know who you are” which was met with the whole venue cheering and laughing. During his performance of Lean On Me the crowd lit the iconic venue with mobile phone lights; Bolton soon telling the audience “I’ve never seen so many flying creatures in my life”. His generosity also extended to a welcoming duet by support act and former X Factor star Rebecca Ferguson on several songs within the set including a spectacular performance of power ballad How Am I Supposed To Love Without You which had the crowd hanging onto every note as they swayed along to the catchy tearjerker and his glamourous, husky voiced collaborator.

While the world slowly returns to some form of normalcy, it was a welcome return for Bolton at one of the world’s most iconic performance spaces and one that I’m sure will have his many fans that filled the venue with their presence and backing vocals talking about for some time to come.

Set list:

Stand by Me (Ben E. King cover)
To Love Somebody (Bee Gees cover)
(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay (Otis Redding cover)
Said I Loved You…But I Lied
You Don’t Know Me (Eddy Arnold cover)
That’s Life (Frank Sinatra cover)
Make You Feel My Love
How Am I Supposed To Live Without You
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell cover)
When a Man Loves a Woman (Percy Sledge cover)
How Can We Be Lovers
Steel Bars
Time, Love and Tenderness
Lean On Me (Bill Withers cover)
Soul Provider