# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Gilbert O' Sullivan - (With Bill Shanley), City Winery, Chicago, 19/3/2023

  by Lisa Torem

published: 26 / 5 / 2023

Gilbert O' Sullivan - (With Bill Shanley), City Winery, Chicago, 19/3/2023

Gilbert O’Sullivan greeted his fans with a grateful smile as he walked onstage with guitarist Bill Shanley. Although he’d performed the City Winery Circuit a year earlier, he’d previously had a substantial hiatus from US touring over the course of his long career. He was clearly happy to be back performing in the US, and his enthusiasm was palpable. Bringing a full band overseas would have been financially prohibitive, so the Irish singer-songwriter opted for a simpler setup, with Shanley stage left and O’Sullivan seated behind a portable Roland. Fortunately for his fans, the sightlines across the room were exceptional. It was a stunningly intimate performance. Former Kinks guitarist Shanley doubled on acoustic and electric guitars, alongside O’Sullivan’s infamous percussive chording. O’Sullivan’s golden era erupted in the early 1970s with chart-toppers ‘Nothing Rhymed,’ ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ and ‘Get Down.’ From those three songs alone, one could have predicted a long-standing career. Those tunes made it clear that O’Sullivan had a gift for creating distinctive chordal harmonies and timeless melodies, competent at delivering a heartfelt ballad or a light-hearted, foot-stomping rocker. His show was divided into two 45-minute segments, balanced out with the expected hits and selected tracks from recent release, ‘Driven.’ O’Sullivan asserted that most of his original songs are not based on actual experiences: “When you get into the story, you become the character.” But there were a few exceptions to the rule, such as the image-rich ‘Blue Anchor Boy,’ which was influenced by a boyhood field trip. “In those days, a trip to the seaside was a big deal,” he said. O’Sullivan is a compelling storyteller. Before singing ‘Claire,’ he explained that the song was dedicated to the family of his former manager, Gordon Mills; O’Sullivan had provided childcare for the youngest daughter. On the actual recording, the child can be heard laughing. The colorful backstory enabled us to fill-in-the blanks. Mills had drawn from a blues harp for the solo section of that recording. Live, Shanley’s own elaborations made it his own. Faithful fans mouthed the lyrics of ‘Out of the Question’ and the innocent ‘What’s In A Kiss.’ Shanley added bright harmonies to ‘I Don’t Love You But I Think I Like You.’ Shanley also shone when rendering a beautiful acoustic solo on ‘Happiness is Me and You,’ as the songwriter hummed the melody under his breath. ‘Let Bygones Be Bygones’ is one of the duets featured in ‘Driven’, performed on that album with Manchester’s Simply Red singer, Mick Hucknall. It’s an upbeat tune with animated lyrics. The other duet, ‘Take Love’ features ‘Suddenly I See’ vocalist KT Tunstall. ‘No Head For Figures’ could have been a co-write with the infamous Cole Porter; it feels like it’s from an earlier era with its clever wordplay. In contrast, ‘All They Wanted to Say’ focused on the casualties that occurred during the tragedy of 9/11. O’Sullivan took a soft political turn with ‘For Peaceful Waters,’ a tribute to the Ukraine that existed prior to the Russian invasion. After encouraging audience participation on the tag line, he enjoyed a collectively positive response. ‘Dansette Dreams’ offered nostalgia for record collectors, while ‘Friend of Mine’ took on a deeper meaning when O’Sullivan waxed solemnly about the demise of cultural icons. With its casual setting and career spanning songs, O’Sullivan and Shanley served up something special for everyone. Photograph by Madeline Torem

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Gilbert O' Sullivan - (With Bill Shanley), City Winery, Chicago, 19/3/2023

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Lisa Torem reviews an intimate set from legendary Irish singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan.


I'm a Writer, Not a Fighter (2012)
Lavishly presented reissue of Irish singer-songwriter Gilbert O' Sullivan's 1973 third album, which, however, because of its use of synthesisers sounds more dated than his other earlier albums

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