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Rick Astley in Belfast review: The singer looks to be loving life on stage. It’s hard to dislike him

Likeable northern English crooner, who plays in Dublin on Tuesday, is still in fine voice and is clearly enjoying himself

Rick Astley

SSE Arena, Belfast

Still with his relatable northern English accent, Rick Astley doesn’t take himself too seriously. He looks to be loving life on stage with his nine-piece band on a rainy Monday night in Belfast. It’s hard to dislike him.

One of the unexpected cult darlings from last year’s Glastonbury, Astley, who plays in the 3Arena in Dublin on Tuesday, is well and truly surfing that wave of newfound popularity. He even managed to promote his future book on huge screens before the concert (It’s called Never and out in October if you’re interested). Strike while the iron is hot and all that, I guess.

Although he has shed the cheesy 80s pop sounds of his first two albums in favour of a gospel-infused Motown sound that drives his latest album, Are We There Yet?, the near capacity crowd is quite clearly there for the Astley classics.

At 58 years old with signature quiff intact, Astley’s vocals are never gonna stop you in your tracks, but he is still in fine voice. The audience demographic at the SSE Arena was a case of two extremes – couples in their late 50s and early 60s or kids in their early teens. No smashing of guitar amps or swearing at this gig. Just good, clean pop with a sprinkling of soul.


The old Stock Aitken & Waterman numbers such as Together Forever and She Wants to Dance With Me do feel more karaoke than vintage pop, giving the sense that Astley is performing them more out of crowd demand or necessity. However, new tracks on show such as Beautiful Life, Dippin My Feet and Forever and More seem to be the type of songs that Astley was destined to sing. They are very credible and listenable tunes.

One song, Driving Me Crazy was written about Astley’s wife, film producer Lene Bausager, inspired by them being caught up in a storm in midtown United States, huddling together in the precarious safety of a tin-roof petrol station of all places. The superb 1991 Cry for Help showcased the fabulous singing talents of backing vocalists Dawn Joseph and Andrea Grant.

Glastonbury staple covers As it Was (Harry Styles) and AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ were fan favourites of the night. Astley really can give the drums a good seeing to.

Before closing with the predictable Never Gonna Give You Up, he beamed to the Belfast audience, “You just made my Monday night feel like a Friday night”, and recalled the time in 1987 when he was being interviewed by Eamonn Holmes in a soggy Belfast, when a young local nicked the raincoat right off Astley’s back. Ahh, good times.

Okay, in 2024, it’s still not the coolest thing in the world to admit to that you’ve just been to a Rick Astley concert, but now, at least for the time being, it’s not the most uncool thing to say either.