Gilbert O'Sullivan - 4/19/20Sunday, April 19 2020 6:00 PM Doors / 8:00 PM Start
- Front Premier
Gilbert O'Sullivan - 4/19/20
at City Winery Chicago
- 6:00 PM
- 8:00 PM
Gilbert O’Sullivan is truly a songwriter’s songwriter - a craftsman in the finest sense of the word, blessed with a relentless work ethic, a dry and sly wit and a keen lyrical, observational take on the human condition and all things love, life, pathos and delight.
You knew all this of course, but it bears repeating, especially in the illuminating light of present day.
O’Sullivan has continued to bring forth his profound works in select live performances (both solo and full band) to thrilled audiences across Europe, Japan and assorted parts across the continents for some time.
He delights in going “back to the desk” as he told Graham Norton recently (on Norton’s celebrated and highly-rated podcast), releasing treasured albums “every couple years” and then excitedly bringing these works along with his extensive catalog to the faithful and new converts in equal measure.
Gilbert signed with BMG in 2016, the stalwart worldwide label & music publishing empire that continues to live up to a reputation as artist-friendly. BMG proudly ushered in O’Sullivan’s 2018 self-titled album ‘Gilbert O’Sullivan’ produced by Ethan Johns (Kings Of Leon, Ray LaMontagne, Ryan Adams, Paolo Nutini, Rufus Wainwright, etc.). Gilbert is depicted on the cover in a determined and confident mid-stride, appropriate for a man with a contemporary musical mission to share.
Theater critic Peter Grant of the UK’s Wirral Globe proclaimed in his 5-Star review from October 14, 2019, “Glorious Gilbert at The Floral Pavilion....A joyous journey through the diverse, rich back-catalogue of one one of the world's most successful singer-songwriters.”
Grant continued, brazenly praising: “It is ‘Just Gilbert’ stripped down on a smash-hit solo star trek. Not quite alone again...he was with master guitarist Bob Shanley - a mainstay of his regular musicians in a show that simply sparkled the moment he strolled on stage and opened with ‘January Git’ - the first track from his first album in 1971 called ‘Gilbert O’Sullivan - Himself.’”
“Alone Again (Naturally)” is of course the iconic, monumental, masterful heartstrings-puller that reached #3 in the UK, and a stunning #1 in America spending six non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, selling nearly two million copies. It also garnered three Grammy nominations, no small feat in highly competitive 1972. The gorgeous nylon-string guitar solo was played by British session great Big Jim Sullivan.
There was much O’Sullivan musical beauty to be admired before and after...a serious, steady artistic cornucopia in fact: “Nothing Rhymed,” “Out Of The Question,” “Clair,” “Get Down,” the both romantic and knowing, youthful and adult “Matrimony” and dozens more - million sellers joining company with delightfully yet-to-be discovered gems.
O’Sullivan is the winner of three coveted Ivor Novello awards in the UK, one for “Songwriter Of The Year” in 1972. He thankfully prevailed throughout the difficult time of litigation with his former manager and record label, which finally ended in 1982. But it was always the song, the songwriter and the joy of crafting his work that consistently maintained his daily beat.
And what of America? The ominous, often intimidating large slice of a nation across the pond that many European troubadours before him have seen as make-or-break territory, it still looms large (often ominously) on any touring artist’s itinerary. Here’s where our collective, communal joy and celebrations enter the picture.
Gilbert triumphantly returned to America in July 2019 for two exclusive east coast performances, one each in New York and Philadelphia. Billboard’s Gary Graff made it clear in July of that year with his headline: ‘Gilbert O’Sullivan Talks Returning To U.S. Stages For First Time In 43 Years’...
O’Sullivan told Graff of two distinct live performance set-ups: one with traditional full band — and one as solo with a single support virtuoso, the veteran guitarist Bob Shanley (trusted accompanist of Van Morrison, Ray Davies and others).
“In many instances, (audiences) said they liked it more (than the full band), because they felt like I was singing to them, that intimacy you get when it’s just two people,” O’Sullivan offered Graff. “Since I’m reintroducing myself to American audiences with these shows, this seemed like the right way to do it.”
And 2020 seems like the right year for a reassessment of Gilbert’s considerable gifts and offerings as an artist and performer: BMG will engage an extensive, nationwide U.S. radio campaign, introducing the recent self-titled ‘Gilbert O’Sullivan’ album to Triple A, Non-Comm, Americana and Specialty Show formats. The radio and media blitz will offer “The Same The Whole World Over” as primary focus track, but will also allow programmers to delve into the full album audio, to discover their own favorites and share them with listeners.
The ‘Gilbert O’Sullivan’ album went Top 20 UK in 2018, his first British charting studio album in over 40 years. A brief glance at his October 2019 UK tour itinerary revealed 12 (out of 15) SOLD OUT performances, an impressive accomplishment in any economic era.
A filmed message on the artist’s Facebook page enthuses “The first time in 43 years that I’ve appeared in America, and what a reception we received!,” referring to the aforementioned New York and Philadelphia shows.
Here’s to 2020 and all that it may bring for this inspired craftsman, both on the boards in the roar of the greasepaint - and within the solace of his workshop, coaxing still more wonder from his keyboard and personal muse.