Giorgio Moroder @ Symphony Hall, 1st April 2019

The word legend is often banded around, but for Giorgio Moroder it is fitting and justified. Just take a look at his back catalogue of songs, his influences and his impact on music and to be fair Legend doesn’t seem enough.

Now well into his seventh decade, Giorgio has never toured, he has recently done the odd DJ set, but this is the first time he has toured and with a full live band, and Birmingham gets to witness this first.

There is no support and a strict start at 20:00, which means an early finish, and I’m in favour of that as it means I’m home in time for Fleabag. The balconies are full however, the stalls are not, and I do wonder if the ticket pricing has been wrong, as the seat I find myself in carried an eye watering price of over £75.

The house music played before the show starts is all his own, how many shows do you get that at? And I should add they are songs that will not feature in his live set. There are of course quite a few mutterings, “ooh I didn’t know he’d written this” which starts as the band walk out to ‘Son of my Father’, Chicory Tip version not football ground chant!

The band, all thirteen of them, are well tuned and play like clockwork, but of course, centre stage is where Giorgio takes his spot, behind a keyboard, which I have to say he does not seem to use much, instead he seems to be enjoying the moment like the rest of us, orchestrating, he’s even taken his trademark aviator shades off for goodness sake! He does sing, opening with ‘Looky Looky’ his first attempt at bubble-gum pop, but he tells us it was in 1974 when he really began to hone his craft, opening the Musicland studio in Munich. He said he saw a variety of artists, from Brian Eno to Led Zeppelin and he struggled to get studio time himself when a young lady walked in called Donna.

The rest, as they say, is history, and he guided Donna Summer and shaped the Queen of Disco. I have to say some of my first musical exposure was hearing Donna on the old charts in the late seventies, and once that moan was heard I was hooked. Those first five albums (Love to Love you Baby, A Love Trilogy, Four Seasons of Love, I Remember Yesterday, Once Upon a Time) remain essential pieces of work, and the first single ‘Love to Love you Baby’ is played next, with one of the backing vocalist taking lead vocal, which is an onerous task if ever there was one. However, she does a fine job. The four vocalists, three female (Amy, Chanice and Rachel) and one male (who didn’t appear to get introduced), do a sterling job, taking their duties in turn, but I have to be honest it’s only when the Donna Summer songs start that my ears truly prick up. Of course, I say that, at times it’s hard to hear, as despite being close to the stage the sound does seem, to me, on the low side and it’s not helped having two people right behind me who insist on talking throughout the show. I do turn around and give them a stare several times to no avail. But why do they do it? If you want to talk, grey tweed jacket wearing beardy, stay in the bar. Just what is the point in coming to a music show to try and talk throughout the whole set?

Okay, I’ve had a little moan there, less than those Donna used to give, but I feel it had to be said, as it’s becoming an ever increasing issue these days. The show itself moves apace, and whilst listed as ‘The Celebration of the ‘80’s’ Tour it’s more a lifetime tour, featuring songs he’s written, produced, sung, been awarded Oscar’s for (three in fact) or a Grammy (four). Giorgio clearly loves the occasion, and it’s fitting he plays the Daft Punk dedicated song ‘Giorgio’, which fits neatly into the set. 

There are further “ooh I didn’t know he’d done that” moments including ‘Take my breath away’ and especially ‘Tom’s Diner’. We then get a song from the new album, ‘Right here, right now’ but I’m not sure how new this album is, as it features on the 2015 ‘Déjà vu’ album, unless there’s a new release in the pipeline??

Giorgio then tells us about a song he wrote, asking the percussionist to give a clap, the keyboard wizard behind to make “some white noise”, giving out Bass chords he wants and then the drummer to give a beat, and altogether this becomes ‘I Feel Love’. It is not only sublime but amazing to see and hear how the song was conceived. It’s wonderful.

“I’d like to dedicate this song to Donna Summer and David Bowie, both of whom we lost too soon”. Using a backing vocal, the musicians’ play Cat People, and I must admit it’s quite a goose bump moment hearing Bowie fill this venue. Then similar treatment is employed for ‘MacArthur Park’ this time playing a video on the backdrop of Summer singing the song. It really is the closest I’ve come to hearing either of them live, and seals what has been a fabulous event.

“You really have been the most fabulous audience of the tour Birmingham, of course we only started today, but it’s getting late and so one more”, suitably ‘Last Dance’. With the crowd shouting for more, and it’s still not ten o’clock, we get ‘Hot Stuff’ (sadly no men are seen doing the Full Monty dole-office dance routine) and finally ‘Call Me’, at which point I say “I never knew he did this”.

Quite why Giorgio has left it so long to tour properly with a live band I’m not sure, but this evening truly was something we may not see again in Birmingham. As a long term admirer of Donna Summer, never seeing her live, this was my chance to try and come close, and on that every box was ticked. It was a brilliant show, and quite simply an epic set-list. I do usually write a set-list down, but for those to go to other shows I’ll save the spoiler, but you will have a great time. Giorgio Moroder? What a legend.

Reviewer: Glenn Raybone

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