(Freedom Hill, Sterling Heights, MI – Saturday, July 5th)
After starting out as an unsuccessful pop singer (working under the name Vance Arnold), Joe Cocker found his niche singing rock and soul in the pubs of England with his superb backing group, the Grease Band. Many years later and it is quite soothingly obvious that the man still adores what he does and can still vocally challenge anyone that gets in his way.
Tonight, at the beautiful outdoor setting of Freedom Hill, Joe takes to the stage amid a sold-out bout of rapturous applause. Dressed completely head-to-toe in black, he starts the proceedings off with ’Just Like A Woman’ and ’Never Tear Us Apart’. ”Sterling Heights. Good evening” he exclaims in a truly understated voice, before going into a rousing rendition of ’When The Night Comes’ that actual makes him break out into a complete sweat and change his face to bright, bursting red!
Undoing his top shirt button and then both his cuffs, Joe doesn’t prowl the stage much, and doesn’t talk much. He let’s his vocal tones express all his thoughts to the enthralled audience. ’Let’s Make Love Not War,’ the Van Morrison tune ‘Into The Mystic,’ a reggae version of ’Summer In The City’ and a splendid version of ’Up Where We Belong’ are all next brought to the fore. With his age-old passion for flailing hands and contorted facial movements seemingly a thing of the past, Joe is a lot less animated on stage these days. Although, he does have a passion for the miniature air guitar!
A grand version of Billy Preston’s ’You Are So Beautiful’ is next followed by delving into his past with the track ‘Hitchcock Railway’. ”Thank you very much” Joe says as he proceeds to introduce the band, before heading into the first song of the night to get everybody up out of their seats, ’You Can Leave Your Hat On’. ’Respect Yourself,’ ‘Letter,’ and ‘Unchain My Heart’ complete with long sax solo are next with a full nine minute version of The Beatles’ ’With A Little help From My Friends’ bringing the set to an end.
Coming back out, a big smile emblazoned, Joe then strolls through another extended version, this time of ’Feelin’ Alright,’ before pulling out an old love song, ’Heartful of Rain’. As we wind down, Joe sings another of his standards, this time ’She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’ which leads straight into ’Cry Me A River’ where the two female backing singers at long last get their moments in the vocal spotlight. ”Sterling Heights, you’ve been great,” he brings the show to a close with. ”Have a great summer and we’ll see you next summertime.”
Photos & Review by Russell A. Trunk