Where's the hat? That's the first reaction as Paul Carrack takes to the stage at Reading's Hexagon. But anyone thrown by the lack of his famous head apparel is soon relieved to see the sunglasses are on and, more importantly, as soon as he opens his mouth, the silky soulful voice is present and correct.
Carrack has carved out a successful career writing and performing classy pop-soul over the last 30 years or more, without ever hitting the mainstream. Hence the title of his last album, I Know That Name. That self-awareness underlines the likeable personality of the singer, who is blessed with one of the finest voices the country possesses. He's also a talented writer; there can't be many singers that casually mention twice during a gig, that "this is a song I wrote for The Eagles."
This show is split into two, with the first half impressive without ever getting going. Songs like the wonderful 'Eyes of Blue', 'Love Will Keep Us Alive' and 'Satisfy My Soul' are performed efficiently, with Carrack moving from acoustic guitar to piano and back again on numerous occasions. There's also a short rest for Carrack, when backing singer Lindsay Dracass performs the Bonnie Raitt track 'Nick of Time'.
But this first half is all a bit nice. That word has negative overtones, and the mood is summed up by Carrack thanking the audience for braving the rotten weather conditions. It's all very round-the-fire cozy and warm. But after a 20 minute interlude, it all changes and the tempo is stepped up. Perhaps Carrack had two sugars instead of one in his half time cuppa!
Whatever the reason, as soon as 'Just 4 Tonite' and then the underrated 'Another Cup of Coffee' get the audience going. The string of hits that fills the second half helps lift things, and for anyone still wondering why they know Paul Carrack's name, they soon find out. Number one 'The Living Years' follows 'Silent Running', both Mike and the Mechanics songs, before the exquisite 'Tempted', which was recorded with Squeeze.
Another Mechanics' tune ends proceedings, with 'Over My Shoulder' ensuring everyone leaves with a smile and the tune ringing round their head. It's a great gig, performed superbly and you wonder just why so few people do Know That Name.