Triumphant Return To Australia
Yusuf was received like a war hero returning from a successful campaign on foreign soil as he took to the stage at the Perth Arena. However, the jubilant masses were not cerebrating an expression of military might, instead, they were revelling in the return of a messenger of peace whose only weapons are an acoustic guitar and a collection of heartfelt songs.
Australia fell in love with Yusuf, or Cat Stevens as he then was, in a big way in the 1970s. The sincerity and charm of his music found a natural home in the hearts of his Aussie fans and a relationship was formed that has, without question, stood the test of time. Australia has always been incredibly welcoming to Yusuf, hence why he has returned for a fourth tour of the country, and every trip down-under has the distinct feeling of being a homecoming.
The band seemed energised by the positive reception and played with huge smiles on their faces all night. Yusuf himself was casual and relaxed, he joked with the crowd and parried the few heckles – over-eager fans calling out for their favourite songs – with a winning combination of charm and humility. One might imagine that either the experience of superstardom early in life or some of the negativity that was expressed after his conversion to Islam would have resulted in Yusuf becoming guarded or having formed an impenetrable stage persona. However, this is most certainly not the case. There is no artifice, Yusuf is completely himself on stage and it is this authenticity that is so arresting.
The concert was packed full of the classic songs that all fans would want to hear as well as a few less obvious selections such as “Daytime” and “Bad Night” that are an added treat for hard-core fans. “Daytime” was written with Yusuf’s long-time friend and musical companion, Alun Davies and it’s a blessing that Alun has recovered sufficiently from the illness that prevented him from travelling to South Africa to join the Australian leg of the tour. The entire audience were moved by the love and kinship that was contained in the embrace that they shared when Alun came on stage. Behind the scenes, Alun has a wonderful mellowing effect on the band and crew and I’m not sure that there’s anyone who brings out Yusuf’s jokey playful side as much.
A feature of the tour so far has been Yusuf sharing his love for The Beatles with the audience. In the Perth show he not only performed three of their tunes, “From Me To You”, “Here Comes The Sun”, and “All You Need Is Love”, but he also played an extract of “Twist And Shout” on a record player that was contained within the attic stage-set. Two things strike me about this emphasis on the fab four. Firstly, it’s a sign that Yusuf is really enjoying himself because he’s playing the music that he loves and it’s fairly rare for him to perform such faithful covers. Secondly, Yusuf seems to be reconnecting with his music-loving younger self. It was the young Beatles fan that first dreamt of writing and performing songs and then went on to achieve fame and success. After a career in the limelight this younger self, having received its fair share of attention, stepped aside so that more contemplative family orientated concerns could blossom. Now, however, Yusuf is now bringing all aspects of his being to the stage and both artist and audience are reaping the rewards.
Information on tour dates and purchasing tickets can be found HERE.
– Hallam Kite