Get Outta My Car, the crowd were up! Billy Ocean was in full throttle now at The Dome in Brighton 02/03/2019. We witnessed a masterclass in concert performance.
Billy Ocean is the biggest black recording star Britain has ever produced, one who has sold over 30 million records in his lifetime. He has collected a pile of Gold and Platinum records across the world and hit the number one spot worldwide on pop charts including the USA, Australia, Germany, Holland, and the UK. Billy has achieved extraordinary success as both an artist and a songwriter
Born in Trinidad, Billy settled in London’s East End when just seven years old. The calypso crazy kid soon got turned on to soul singers like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, as well as pop groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, leading him to spend much of his study time in the music room. Billy got his first break when he signed to GTO records, for whom his second single was the Motown-ish Love Really Hurts Without You, which reached No. 2 in the UK charts and No. 12 in the US.
After huge worldwide success and with a young family at home, Billy decided to take a break to spend some well earned time with them. In 2007, with the kids all grown up, Billy went back out to perform his hits again, this time with his daughter Cherie on backing vocals, with live dates in the UK and Europe, USA, Canada, and the Caribbean.
This night in the Brighton Dome was only the second night of his UK and Europe tour. Outside Storm Freya was just starting to unleash, inside The Dome it was a seated affair and it was a sell out performance, and a party storm was brewing nicely.
Now, I have always been a fan of Billy’s music, from just buying the records to then years as a DJ across the UK. I had never seen him live before, and with photo clearance, I along with a few hundred people were ready.
The band took to the stage during an intro segment and then the man himself walked out to a huge Brighton cheer. He looked almost surprised with the welcome he got. Well deserved. “Are you ready Brighton?” Billy asked. The cheer he got more than answered that and we were off – Are You Ready. Extraordinary as he just walked casually onto the stage, one hand in his pocket, to a huge noisy welcome and opened with this 1980 single. He glided and danced from one side of the stage to the other.
The crowd nicely warmed up, Billy chatted a while and hoped we had all left our troubles at the door and asked if we were in the mood for a party. Billy looked immaculate in his grey suit and tie, his hair tied back and with a smile that lit up the room.
After the brilliant opening the crowd sat back down for a couple of Billy’s slightly slower tempo numbers. I have to say the band and singers that Billy had with him were superb. The sound guys at The Dome and Billy’s sound engineers had done a brilliant job making sure we could here every instrument and vocal. The Colour Of Love showcased Ocean’s incredible vocal talent. His powerful voice truly shone through and engaged everyone.
The slower numbers you could have heard a pin drop as the crowd sat and watched Billy perform. The opening of Love Really Hurts Without You soon changed that. The crowd were up on their feet. Here is a record I played for years, and now I was so grateful to see it being performed live. The band cranked it up and so did the crowd as they spilled into the walkways and stairs to dance and sing. This song was held off the number one spot in 1976 by Save Your Kisses For Me! The crowd found their way back to their seats for the next song and then Billy invited us to Kingston as he treated us to a cover of the Bob Marley No Woman No Cry. The Brighton choir did not disappoint as everyone was up again, singing and holding mobile phones with torches aloft. A magical live concert moment.
This was followed, after another slower tempo track, by Red Light Spells Danger. The crowd took to their feet again as the electric piano, bass guitar and vocals opened up the song and the drums and backing singers powered in. This one again had people up, and I noticed it including some of the Dome staff, dancing in the aisles. Brilliant song and magnificent to hear it live. This song should have been a number 1 but was held off the top slot on the UK Top 20 by ABBA ‘s Knowing Me, Knowing You. So pure bad luck held two Billy Ocean records off the top slot.
It slowed down again to allow Billy to bring us Suddenly and There’ll be Sad Songs. The crowd didn’t disappoint as Billy invited everyone to join in, we did! More downtempo songs but Billy kept it cooking along nicely. A nice mirror ball would have been perfect.
Billy Ocean: Party time!
Billy asked “can I be your lover boy” a few times, and each time the response got louder. The keys producing a whirl of sound and the sax giving us a few brass stabs as the guitar kicked in with the drums, and indeed another favourite Loverboy was up. Billy had been going full tilt for an hour and yet he now nudged it up another level. His vocals were still going strong as were his moves. The band did a great job producing slow ballads, soul and then a real rock sound for this track. All of the songs were given the 12″ disco mix and lasted longer than the original releases which suited everyone. An astonishing selection of songs from the Billy Ocean back catalogue and I think I pretty much knew all of them!
A back track of car horns heralded Get Outta My Car and obligingly the crowd were up, I don’t think I saw one person still sitting by now! The crowd were a bit restricted on the lower floor by the seats but they made a good effort to party along with Billy. Billy Ocean was in full throttle now! Billy would stop every so often to chat, he even attempted flogging his own merch! Hilarious stuff from him “go help yourself” – I can only imagine the reaction to that from the merch desk guys!
The perspiration was running down his face, but not interrupting that enigmatic smile, by the time he got round to When the Going Gets Tough. Again he engaged the crowd magnificently prior to the song starting up and giving his daughter, on backing vocals, a mention which I thought was a delightful touch. Billy Ocean was giving us a masterclass tonight. How to do it and do it right. His vocals were perfect, his smooth moves all came together to show others how to do it and do it live without backing tracks.
This man is a legend and proved his worth to the crowd tonight. Billy’s concert was without a doubt the place to be on a wet and windy Saturday night. He, the band and the crowd created a wonderful party atmosphere. He would shake peoples hands and a couple of people climbed the barrier for a kiss, hug or selfie! Billy accommodated them all.
Billy Ocean: Finally…
His 1984 hit Caribbean Queen was saved for the encore tonight. A great 10 minute version with a brief break to introduce the band. The song ended to tumultuous applause from the crowd who had just had a night of their lives. I have said it before Billy Ocean has sold more than 30 million records in his lifetime, and tonight the musical icon showed exactly how he achieved that as he raised the roof and blew away his fans at this sold-out Brighton gig. It really was a faultless, superb evening from a man who may well be this country’s greatest soul/disco export. The Trinidad-born singer might be nearing his 70’s, but I can say wholeheartedly he is easily one of the top soul, R’n’B singers I’ve ever seen live.
This was a terrific show, suitable for all ages. Even if you do not know all of the Billy Ocean catalogue, I guarantee you will know some of the classics. If, like me, Billy Ocean music has followed you through the years, then just go and see the songs live. This is a show I will not forget in a hurry and I 100% recommend you see Billy if he plays near you on the Greatest Hits tour.
A massive thank you to the BILLY OCEAN TEAM – thank you!
A bigger thank you and a hug to Jeni R.
Thank you to SJM concerts – promoting the event.
And, as always thanks to the fabulous staff at The Dome.
Please note all original images / video are copyright, please do not copy. If any of the featured artists/promoters/venues want copies of the images – or more if available – please just get in touch.
All original pictures / video – copyright to IANB/MEDIA WORKS/ SCENE SUSSEX – Ian “The Lens” Bourn 2019.
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