Upon arrival at the 02 Apollo, I was excited - but fully expected to leave underwhelmed.
After a career spanning almost 30 years, it seemed likely that Seal’s voice would be tired, and his iconic songs would lack the same depth that pushed them to the top of the charts all those years ago. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong (understatement of the century).
The crowd and I were first greeted by a small orchestral band; hinting that the set would begin with a few songs from Seal’s newest album, Standards. When the man himself- smartly dressed and confident- walked on stage and started singing the Sinatra classic, Luck Be A Lady, everyone in the audience was instantly enchanted (particularly the women!)
Taking on songs from the Rat Pack era is always a risk. Many have risen to the occasion and fallen catastrophically, but Seal managed to make every hit his own. The natural husk and gravel in his voice made well-known songs such as, I Put A Spell On You and That’s Life sound antique and charming. Where many have struggled to achieve the same level of authenticity, it seemed almost second nature to the Grammy, Brit and Ivor Novello winner, who tackled each song in his own unique way.
At the end of They Can’t Take That Away From Me, he broke his silence and decided to have a chat with the audience.
“I have really been looking forward to playing in Manchester you know… I had some really fun times here back in 89’. A few too many pints, if you know what I mean. But let’s just skirt passed that- I said I was going to behave myself tonight.”
The audience giggled, knowing perfectly well what he was referring to. But he isn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last celeb to reminisce about their wild nights at the Hacienda – so it just made the entire atmosphere even more relaxed. Furthermore, I must put out a special mention to certain members of the audience whose hilarious outbursts made it a night of laughter. And to the woman with the thickest Mancunian accent I’ve ever heard, I agree- Seal’s songs are “top”.
With the atmosphere at its peak, he finally put the crowd out of their misery and dropped his biggest hit/ultimate banger- Kiss From A Rose. To say his delivery of the song was sublime would be an understatement. I felt like I was listening to a CD. So, as you can imagine, when he stood at the edge of the stage- blue and purple lights rippling over this face- and resonated the opening lines of Killer, the audience went crazy.
With everyone on their feet, Seal made his way into the audience and engaged with his fans. Some people hugged him, others danced with him, but most of us just stood paralysed (I managed to touch his arm and nearly went into cardiac arrest as a result- but that’s a story for another time). From then, it was a beautiful waterfall of Seal classics- including Fly Like An Eagle and Crazy.
The set was 90 minutes long, but it felt like five. Seeing an icon of Seal’s calibre in the flesh and listening to his voice unedited was like being in a dream. Whilst his ‘Dad dancing’ was slightly painful to watch, it didn’t take anything away from his undeniable talent. Even at the age of 55, he is still exploring new musical avenues and furthering his legacy- so that for me is enough to earn him 10/10. Certainly the best Valentines Day I’ve ever had.