THE open, smiling face of Steve Beighton always awaits talkative fans at Paul Carrack gigs.
Find him by the merchandise stable enjoying the contact and feedback from his boss’ easy-going and loyal followers. In street clothes, he’s comfortable as though it was his living room. It must be something about brass players, maybe even especially saxophonists.
His Sheffield accent is shared by Carrack and all the band, city natives 1-7 in the septet. It’s the Pavilion Theatre on a Friday night and, once again, he recognises me and we chat. Singer-songwriter and classics interpreter Carrack’s tours over the past decade have taken him up the venue ladder, from this one, then to The Assembly Hall, and then an interval not visiting Worthing while his national tours could suddenly fill places such as The Brighton Centre and the Royal Albert Hall.
If the Carrack sound has an instrumental signature it’s Beighton’s alto, soprano, or mainly tenor sax. Lately he’s had a trumpeter alongside but now that Carrack’s son Jack is an auxiliary second drummer alongside Dean Dukes, Beighton is a one-man brass section in this Carrack blues-soul-pop-rock engine driven by the diminutive Dukes and tall bassist Jeremy Meek, this time on Fender Precision.
I ask Beighton how long he’s been supplying Carrack his sound. “It’s 15 years,” he grins, “and I remember playing that first year here at The Pavilion.” Strewth, I was there, too.
While Beighton drifts off the get changed, acoustic guitarist, singer and songwriter Elliott Morris absorbingly entertains and amuses with genuine guitar wizardry, tenor voice, sometimes both together, observant and wry lyrics, and some fun anecdotes and audience teasing.
It’s a sell-out tonight. It’s showery and breezy. Drinks interval over, the Carrack band take everyone by surprise by starting up out of the dark. It’s Satisfy My Soul and Carrack thanks everyone for turning out and getting wet. Worthing’s Over-50s are the majority fan membership, there are plenty over 70, and they’ve creaked and groaned into their seats for their annual self-prescription of Carrack’s guaranteed quality.
Ever workmanlike since owning his own music company, Carrack’s done a new album for the tour, Rain or Shine, and we get seven items off it, the seventh a second encore, the title track. Yes, the standard by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, covered by Sinatra and Holliday.
Since a creative peak and the early 00s, Carrack hasn’t been touring England depending on his own material. Only the truly special survive that career suicide risk. Doing the songs that make music great makes the Carrack cake rise. The album combines originals and classics and the Carrack voice and sense of economy in arranging them is the unerring common factor.
An evening with Carrack adds the element of the songs he so distinctively sang with earlier bands that made this solo career possible, such as almost the indispensible The Living Years. Classics in themselves and, lyric-wise, all moving towards an area in which he has excelled as a solo artiste. Reporting and sharing mid-life experiences and problems with a baby boomers public brought up on the 1960s explosion of pre-family, young-love pop, later needing contemporary comment and observation as life suddenly imposes its responsibilities, its inescapable ties and pains.
Off Rain or Shine comes That’s All That Matters To Me. Carrack tells the audience it’s about his daughter’s sudden news that she’s going to be away and off in the Far East for six months. We also hear his One In A Million and the post-War classics I’m Losing You (Brenda Lee) and You Don’t Know Me (Ray Charles).
The gig’s going all as expected. The perky 60s hits When you Walk In The Room (The Searchers) and When My Little Girl is Smiling (Jimmy Justice) punctuate the regulation chugging, mid-tempo stuff, the comfy yet telling ballads, and the few numbers where the band expand, Meek can spatter a surprise funk solo at the crowd, Carrack can stretch his Hammond organ, guitarist Andy Staves can finally let his guitar scream and Beighton his tenor sax screech.
But wait. The setlist does bring the unexpected. Carrack is handed a third different guitar, throws on a harmonica sling, and offers a Bruce Springsteen cover, If I Fall Behind. That was a risk of one kind. Straight away he took another, a song that came and went with dark, moody, elusive, enigmatic and strange effect, in an entirely different metre to everything else.
It gave the whole evening a fleeting glimpse into an extra dimension. Off his album Different Hats (how well that describes the repertoire), it was Randy Newman’s I Think it’s Going To Rain Today, off. No need to fear a giant when you cover as well as this man Carrack.
The Tour takes in Crawley’s The Hawth on March 4.