Cliff Richard @ Birmingham NIA – 20th November 2008


I know what you are thinking – a Cliff Richard concert; a review of the most mocked man in showbiz. An easy target for criticism, like shooting a big fish in a small barrel. Well, hold on to your hats, I went in an ardent sceptic and came out just a non-believer.

The problem with Cliff is that he is without question our most successful, long-standing British artist (granted he does not sell quite as many records now), but anyone who can have hits in all of the last six decades must be doing something right. Furthermore, when you look at the legions of fans gathered here at the NIA, Birmingham, all in an uncontainable frenzy (the lines for the toilets were literally around the whole arena), you have to ask yourself how he does it?


If pressed I would class myself as a non-Cliff fan, in as much as I wouldn’t usually choose to listen to his music, however, even I am slightly embarrassed to admit I have 6 of his songs on my iTunes. How does an artist manage to appeal to people who don’t really like him? I guess the answer is that he has played it safe for his 50 years in the limelight and taken root firmly in the middle of the road; appealing to the masses and not really upsetting anybody – it is a lucrative place to be. And tonight’s gig is a shining example of giving the people what they want, of those 6 songs I like, he played 4 of them faultlessly and ‘Miss You NIghts’ was worth the admission alone.

As a 68 year old singer, Cliff is even to a hard-hearted cynic, still a master of his craft. Whether you like his tone or intonation or not, he still has the power to carry a song and move an audience, whether it be his opening upbeat hit from the 50’s ‘Move It’, or the bouncy ‘In the Country’, or the powerpop of ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’, or faux-rock of ‘Devil Woman’, Cliff’s voice carries through the vast arena with clarity and polish. His band of session men delivers a fine wall of sound behind him, albeit with any rawness removed and what is packaged and presented to the audience is something nice and smooth with no rough edges. I guess this is fine if you are a devoted fan, or you like ‘nice’, but I found myself getting very restless after about 20 minutes.


Like many established artists with big tour budgets, Cliff opted for big stage sets, dancers, raised platforms, turning platforms, 40 ft high spinning reels, dazzling light shows, 4 giant video screens and multiple costume changes (from jacket and trousers, to a different jacket with trousers, to jacket and jeans, to sparkly jacket and jeans). But I found this to be more of a distraction than anything, as if he is trying to make up for some deficiency in the music; Cliff’s only real Achilles heal is his terrible dancing and he ends up looking like, well, your dad dancing at a wedding. But really he has always been like this: it began with his copycat Elvis hip wiggle, went to a roller-skating hip shake and ended with the biggest double arm full body wave ever seen in a Christmas video. I feel that he should be told to bring the band back into the main stage so he looks less isolated, and less likely to feel the need to use up all the space with his dodgy moves. Moreover, the show reached its heights when the music became the focal point; his renditions of ‘Travelin’ Light’, ‘The Next Time’ and ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’ were the real highlights, not the cheesy Butlins-esque camp of ‘Summer Holiday’ or ‘Bachelor Boy’. And for me this is where the show really comes under criticism, the choreography was dated and at times I had to blink to check I wasn’t in a TOTP studio in 1987. But the show was done without the slightest hint of irony – Cliff you feel, really believes that his show is contemporary. This earnest attempt to not be the oldest swinger in town was frankly laughable and I just wish he would admit what he is: a singer, not a performer, or a dancer, or a superstar. To illustrate this, the highlight is an a cappella version of ‘Miss You Nights’, which Cliff dedicated to his friends and family who had passed away recently, and invited the audience to also think of their nearest and dearest, very cheesy and slightly manipulative I know, but I can honestly tell you I had a lump in my throat throughout the song, and when the backing singers came in during the middle eight, it is a wondrous sound. I would have preferred two hours of this than the cabaret that preceded it.


The real low points of the night are without question the time when he pretends that he really won the 1968 European Song Contest, due to Franco bribing the judges (as if it matters) and when he berates Rod Stewart for bringing out his American Songbook albums before Cliff had done so (ensuring that Cliff did not copy the idea for fear of being a copycat, as if this has bothered Cliff in the past), only for Cliff to boast about the fact he actually had recorded Cole Porter songs back in 1959 so it was in fact his idea all along, in a kind of “I saw it first” moment. And although he laughs when he tells the story, you get the feeling he is deadly serious and in his own mind he really is ahead of his time. Oh and I almost forgot, he later sings a duet with himself via a video of himself, alternating singing the verse and the chorus with the video version of Cliff, bizarre! This type of performance borders on arrogance and is discomfortingly close to narcissism.


I also felt that Cliff is too conscious of lighting and videos cues. It is as if his every movement has been choreographed to the smallest detail: walk here, wave, turn, walk back, grab mike stand, wiggle bum. There seems to be no room in the sequences to really get close to his audience, perhaps this is due to him preferring the company of his young dancers, rather than the row of pensioners waving from below the stage. For anyone under 65, a Cliff concert is going to be a culture shock. He has grown old disgracefully and to the non-believer is just like a slightly embarrassing uncle, with his bad wig and tucked in T-shirt, who you don’t mind seeing every Christmas.

He still has an immense power to entertain, but he has to stop kidding himself that he is sparring with the likes of the current middle of the road solo pop acts, Kylie, Madonna et al. and get back down to earth, his strengths are the songs he built a career on not his ability to reduce 70 year old women to giggling schoolgirls.

Review – Alan Neilson

Photos – Steve Gerrard


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32 thoughts on “Cliff Richard @ Birmingham NIA – 20th November 2008

  1. Why??? You have yours opinions and I have mine. To put the record straight I am now 50 years old, and this revevers might be the same age as Cliff (I guess this because of the songs he mentioned) or even younger, but looks like my grandfather. As Cliff doesn’t do. So he might be envey.
    In fact, I

  2. Wow!! Wow!! Loved THE PICTURES..the photografer was there, that we can see. But who wrote this review, where you there?? Can´t beleive you were, sorry. I was…The Concerts are amazing…Cliff is doing an incredble show. Went from Portugal…many people from different contries were and still are there…the Tour tickects were available since a year and the concerts were SOLD OUT since then…I know, you missed a ticket…shame, really. Cliff and The Shads will tour next year, be sure you get a ticket to go…sorry my typing, I´m not english and was laughing..LOLOL…this is a joke? Right??

  3. Think the reviewer missed the point on the title of the show!!It is The Time Machine.Cliff was showcasing various moments from his looong career.Yes, some of the dace routines and outfits were dated, they were meant to reflect the period of the music which spans years.
    The costume changes also reflected the period of the music.I can only think that the reviewer was so captivated by Cliff and the dancers that heidnt get the whole point of the show which did exactly what it said on the ticket.
    I dont think any of the audience came away disappointed, We loved the while thing.

  4. I.m aperson from Romania, Cliff’s fan of 40 years. I have not been to any concert of Time Machine, but I read enough articles in Daily Mail, Times, Daily Telegraph, Birmingham post. I read too reviews on the forum CRO and tried to gat a picture of shows, knowing Cliff’smusic. Of course, the editor may have own opinions, it is his problem, but, with all due respect I should like to remember him:
    -Sir Cliff was the first British artist to put out a rock n roll single way back in 1958;
    -he is the best Pop-Rock singers for the past 5 decades and he still rock n rolling.
    The editor would not forget that

  5. Can the critic writing this review sing, dance and entertain for over 3hrs singing 40+ numbers…….erm NO. Do critics know everything No! This critic certainly doesnt, this review borders on downright rude and certainly isnt a review of a concert like its supposed to be, it attacks appearance and seems more like a personal attack. But hey for the critic criticising the cliff concert allow me to return the favour by giving my critique of your review…IT STINKS!

  6. Alan who ?
    Man don’t you half suck !!!!!

    try and move about like granddad Cliff for just over an hour and see if you can keep it up. Your review is totally pathetic.


  7. I think the review was very fair and well written. It certainly doesn’t deserve the personal comments like ‘you look like a grandfather’, ‘you suck’, ‘totally pathetic’ etc.

    Also with regard to the idea that just because the reviewer can’t sing/dance/ perform like Cliff, he’s not entitled to judge him: some of these responses are semi-literate at best. By your own criteria you’re not qualified to critique this critique if that’s the best you can do.

    PS using the anonimity of the internet to be mean to a stranger is really terribly sad. Just so you know: I’m judging you.

  8. Well Mr Critic,
    You seem to be having a go at Cliff rather than the show. Simply because you know he is 68, you have likened him to an embarrasing uncle at a wedding but you don’t think female stars in their 50s who dress in basks don’t look like mutton dressed like lamb. My two daughters who are both Robbie Williams fans have been to see Cliff twice, and they love his shows, they have gone as far as saying he is better than any other concerts they have been to,and they have seen Duran Duran, and Robbie Williams live.

    You have to admit that to last for 50 years, Cliff must be doing something right. If Robbie Williams and the others last that long, and if you are still around, perhaps you could compare their longevity then.

    Cliff is a super star, OK?

  9. You guys should have seen my original review if you thought this was bad! Also, most readers seem to have neglected to see some of the phrases I used: “still a master of his craft”, “has the power to carry a song and move an audience”, “the show reached its heights when the music became the focal point”, “it is a wondrous sound” etc. I admitted throughout that Cliff is doing something right; it just happens to be something that does not appeal to everybody.
    A review is about opinion, not necessarily just a description of an event. I look on every concert I review as objectively as possible, so it is not surprising that someone who loves the artist will have a different experience than I. Furthermore, as I attend many concerts and listen to many styles of music, I have a large frame of reference, and this, I would argue, gives me the right to an opinion. And you are indeed entitled to yours, but remember there is more music out there than appears on mainstream TV/radio, and it doesn’t mean it is any less valid because it hasn’t sold millions of units.
    Thanks for the comments anyway everyone.

  10. if cliff has lasted 50 years and can still fill arenas and sell tickets a year in advance his popularity is still strong to0day.
    who ever wrote this review does not know cliffs sense of humour and what the fans like. when they are 68 could they be as energetic and stay in a jobv they enjoy for as long.

  11. In response to friend of sg, i am entitled just as you to give my opinion, anybody can be a critic its obviously not a hard job to do really!. I am entitled to say what i feel just as you are and in my eyes that review was not fairly written at all as people who have been to the concert will agree. You talk about being mean to a stranger is the critic not being mean to cliff i certainly think so!! You cannot stop me and others having an opinion on what we think is right and wrong!!

  12. A rather good review taken as a whole. I admire the reviewer, Alan, for admitting to having six of Cliff’s songs on his I-tunes. That took guts. Most non-Cliff fans are embarrassed by such things. I am amazed at the fact that Alan admits to feeling like he was transported to the TOTPs in 1987 or Butlins in 1958 and thinks this is a fault! I think the concert was much better than Alan thought it was. After all wasn’t the name THE TIME MACHINE TOUR? Wasn’t it supposed to evoke scenes, feelings, costumes and music from different years during Cliff’s career? Cliff seems to have done it very well! Congratulations, Cliff!

    Cliff clothes changes, talk about Eurovision (it was news this year), etc. are all part of Cliff’s show that he knows his ‘loyal’ fans love, as are the wiggles and even the dorky dancing. If you want the professional stuff try the video for I Just Don’t Have the Heart, A Universal Work of Art, Stronger or any of the other PWL chirographed songs Cliff has done.

    I agree that the band should be back on the stage with Cliff not off on some other floor! It’s better now that it was during the ‘invisible’ period, which I could never figure out!

    I have to take issue with a couple of things; one, using faux-rock for what is actually poprock and a perfectly good word to describe it; and calling Cliff out for being too conscious of lighting and video cues. Cliff may use them more for structure as he gets older and they help keep track of what is going on. An over two hour show is something that many of his ‘younger’ competitors find daunting. So don’t try to give me that ‘Cliff is growing older disgracefully’. You get up on the stage and match him movement for movement for over two hours.

    I certainly do not think Cliff is growing older disgracefully. I think he growing older the best he can and still gives his all for his concerts whether always hitting the mark or not, mostly he seems to produce things that his fans love him for! And lives by his motto which he has stated over the years, “I never want to do anything on stage that would embarrass my fans!” An attitude I wish a few other singers would adopt.

    I had 15 minutes of Tom Jones on GMA today and HOW I wished it had been Cliff, dorky dancing and all! Tom Jones is a stiff. No expression, no moves and almost no voice. I was restless after 15 seconds! He looks so odd and frozen, it was like having his wax replica singing.


  13. this just goes to prove that we are all different and it is what makes the world. l was at the concert and thoroughly enjoyed it but we are all entitled to our opinion, but l dont think it good to slam artists making it obvious of your opinion, there were thousands of people there who did enjoy the show and this should also be respected

  14. ‘I guess the answer is that he has played it safe for his 50 years in the limelight and taken root firmly in the middle of the road; appealing to the masses and not really upsetting anybody – it is a lucrative place to be. And tonight’s gig is a shining example of giving the people what they want, of those 6 songs I like, he played 4 of them faultlessly and ‘Miss You NIghts’ was worth the admission alone.’

    I am going to the concert tonight in Manchester, and reserve judgement until then. However, past experience has me very excited. I want to say to Alan that I enjoyed his review but that I strongly contest his view, expressed above, that Cliff has been successful by playing safe. The exact opposite is the case. He has taken on the ‘pop’ establishement at every turn. Think of Move It as the start of Britpop; being a public Christianin rock and roll; doing Eurovision; doing albums as varied as gospel and rock, including a brilliant effort a couple of years ago called something’s Going On. Think of Heathcliff. All these, and other, projects have opened him up to ridicule but he kept on, and was successful. Cliff is popular because he is hard-working, talented and committed. If he seems a tocuh immodest these days in reminding people of his achievements, its because the aforementioned pop establishement wilfully refuse to acknowledge it.

    But a most interesting and honest review.

    Bob Nicholson

  15. Arrogant, narcissism? Come on, with his talents and stunning good looks, who can blame him? He was Britain’s first Pop Idol and teenage heart throb after all.

    Anyone who looks as good as Cliff would definitely spend a lot of time admiring themselves. For me, that was one of my favourite bits of the show.

  16. I was at Birmingham 23rd Nov.
    A fantastic show reflecting on the past
    50 years.Looking forward to the same on 28th
    at Newcastle Arena….


  17. Hi, the pictures are great. The review … I don’t agree with. I came form Germany to see the concert at Wembley. I enjoyed every minute. The reviewer is (my guess) 20 or more years older than I am. Grown up in a household with Cliff calendars in his mothers kitchen, that teached him to hate Cliff. We in Germany normally don’t have any Cliff calenders, so we are not prejudiced. We can just go and enjoy.

  18. Hello world. As a fellow reviewer on this website, I think the personal verbal attacks towards Alan are disgusting. I’ve never met Alan (although you’ll be getting a beer from me at the Christmas party), and I’m assuming that he’s a lot younger than Cliff and younger than the fans that have been having a go at him. I was brought up to respect my elders, but some of you “hardcore fans” are surely going against Cliff’s Christian attitudes – everyone on this earth (God’s earth, some might say) is equal, and everyone’s opinion is valid. Just because he doesn’t conform to the same opinion that Cliff fans have, it doesn’t make him wrong.

    All the Cliff fans here should try going to a sweaty, 400-capacity Death Metal “Concert” and then write a review, because I’d love to see what positive things you’d have to say about that…

    Chill out people. Much love!

    PS. Did he play “Wired For Sound”? I love that track…

  19. I have read the review! second half unecessary !I will look forward to reading your reviews(OR NOT)in 50 YRS TIME maybe!!

  20. Well, mister Hackett what I understand is ,you as critics have all the rights to critisise and be rude, than you should be brave enough to be critised too.

  21. Sonia – I agree, when the criticism is justified. Some of the crap that’s been written above is just downright RUDE, and I expect better from some of the older people in our community. It just goes to show that being a Cliff uber-fan can cloud your judgement…

    Hey, even Cliff likes small AND tall speakers!

  22. Wow! This thread has the most comments ever!

    Glad you guys like my photos of Cliff. My mom’s a massive fan too. I remember buying the Wired For Sound album when it came out for her birthday.

    Anyway, I thought people might like to know about this:

    Cliff and The Shadows will play Birmingham’s NIA on Saturday October 3 and Sunday October 4 2009. Tickets go on sale at 10am on Sunday November 30 priced at £60 and £55, subject to booking fee.

  23. Surprise, surprise… reading your review about CLIFF’s concert sounds as if I wasn’t at the same concert like you SG… I admit I attended the opening concert and the second concert at Wembley Arena and yesterday I was at the MEN in Manchester and I really don’t travel all the way from Luxembourg to the UK only to see CLIFF’s wiggles… each penny I spend to come and see CLIFF is worth the money… would like to see you dancing with the dancers when you’re 68. The man is simply great!
    … and I’m 54, and met a lot younger fans than me at these 3 concerts, he’s a fantastic singer and we are a great bunch… his latest song ‘GOLDEN’ says it all and we his fans can answer with ‘Thank you for a lifetime CLIFF’
    Kind regards

  24. Some excellent photos, well I have to say the review started off promising. I thought at the start of this review that I had finally found someone that could see past the press image of Cliff.

    Unfortunately you did not quite pull it off – although you did admit to having some songs on your itunes so that kind of makes up for it :o) I do think that for someone that has never been to a Cliff gig before it might be a bit of a culture shock but if you approach it with an open mind then you might actually find that you quite like it.

    I was at the show on Thursday and I am not what you call a standard fan – ie am not 70, don’t have a walking stick and blue rinse.

    I listen to all types of music but also do like Cliff and have done for a number of years.

    The show was fantastic – there are not many acts that will do a 3 hour show with no support band.

    The song choice was also good – Cliff always trys to make the set list different on each tour. This time we had some classic songs but also he added in a few that I have never seen live – Honky Tonk Angel, Suddenly, Mobile Alabama School Leaving Hullabaloo. The version of Miss You Nights was breathtaking as you say and shows what a good voice he has.

    And really that is what it is all about – his voice.

    The “stage sets, dancers, raised platforms, turning platforms, 40 ft high spinning reels, dazzling light shows, 4 giant video screens and multiple costume changes” are just part of the whole experience and maybe if you think about it they might not all be all Cliff’s doing but be part of his managements choice! If he didn’t do it then there would only be comments as to why he had not put on a good show and why he had not put any thought into the show.

    The show was supposed to be a celebration – a story of the last 50 years of his life. I don’t think Cliff should try to compete with the current middle of the road acts that you mention. They are no competition they could never achieve what he has done over the years. One of the reasons that I like him is that he has built his career on his own choices and taken little notice of what the press/public say about him.

    There has to be some cheesy moments – the show is covering 50 years which obviously covers many different era’s – innocent 50’s, swinging 60’s etc and as for the dancing we all know that he is a singer and not a dancer! He would be the first to admit this.

    And as for the Eurovision it was a joke that maybe you took too seriously …

    Cliff does have an “immense power to entertain” and that is what has kept him at the top over the last 50 years.

    and yes Tony :o) he did play “Wired for Sound”

  25. In Manchester I was able to see Cliff, the first concert I went to in the UK. And it was worth the long wait and the trip from Holland. In the past 30 years I attended all of his concerts in Rotterdam. But on this special occasion I wanted to be in England (also because this tour is not going to Europe). And being a Cliff fan for 46 years it was just natural to be there.
    I have noticed that Cliff is able to put on a new show each time with a great variety in songs, and he has a lot of songs to choose from. He is a 1st class singer and entertainer and he keeps his fans very happy.
    Next year I will be there again!!

  26. Yawn…..ZZZzzzzz. Yet another critic doing what they think they are doing best, critisising Cliff! I hope you were stood or sat on the floor as you clearly didn’t deserve to take a seat!

    Try Mcfly concert next time maybe?

  27. I was at Wembley on the 15th of november. It was a great performance. I live in Belgium and I am still a huge fan…after 40 years and my daughter who is now 29 years is also a fan. So what…
    He is simply the best!

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