Yusuf Islam at the Echo Arena

Posted on 6 December 2009
By Ben Patey
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The evening ended with the audience on their feet pleading for a third encore.

It began, incredulously, with a few fans leaving before Yusuf Islam even came on.

Some weren’t happy evidently, that they had to sit through a half an hour preview of Yusuf Islam’s forthcoming new musical, Moonshadow.

Unfortunately, their ignorance robbed them of one of the most beautiful and intimate gigs the Arena is likely to see.

From the opening chords of ‘The Wind’, the evening was a warm, nostalgic trip down memory lane.

My own wistfulness was based on countless trips in my Dad’s car as a young lad. Father and Son singing along to ‘Moonshadow’. Mastering ‘Wild World’ on the guitar. Singing ‘Morning has Broken’ with two hundred other kids in school assembly.

I used to watch videos of Cat Stevens and marvel over how cool he looked. Handsome, long curly hair – a mystic air about him.

Now, back touring after so long, Yusuf demonstrated a calming assertiveness when a few harmless, but nevertheless over zealous members of the audience constantly demanded the big hitters.

‘Sorry, I don’t understand Scouse’, joked Yusuf.

When another shouted ‘Go on Cat!’, Yusuf merely chuckled and replied, ‘I’m with you brother’.

Here was a man who would not be dictated to.

‘Boots and Sand’ was a reminder of this – written after he was denied access to the United States because his name was on a security watch list.

Even the tour memorabilia demonstrated a tongue in cheek defiance – t-shirts emblazoned with mock up wanted posters. The mugshot – a handsome man with long curly hair.

Yusuf reserved special praise for ‘his friend’ Paul McCartney who lent his vocals to ‘Boots and Sand’. His respect for McCartney couldn’t have been better portrayed than in his rousing cover of Long and Winding Road.

The hits kept coming. ‘Peace Train’, ‘Moonshadow’, ‘Tuesday’s Dead’ – all helped along with a bit of personable chat from the main man.

“Beats the X Factor”, shouted one man after an immaculate rendition of ‘Wild World’.

Yusuf merely chuckled before finishing inevitably with ‘Father and Son’.

The handsome man with the curly hair was still cool. Still mystical. Still brilliant.