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MUSIC

Sayer dusts off the ditties

Chart-topping singer-songwriter Leo Sayer is hot on the comeback trail.
Jan 16, 2015 5:50 AM

SOFT rock legend, Leo Sayer, might whisper sweet nothings in the lyrics of his hit ballads such as When I Need You (1977) and More Than I Can Say (1980); but the pop star is not one to mince his words when asked about the state of pop music today. "When you buy a new album now, you'll hear about three good songs; the rest are just fillers," says the 66-year-old, whose real name is Gerard Hugh Sayer, over the phone from his new home in the countryside, south of Sydney.

An unstoppable hit machine during the 1970s and 1980s, he ruled the pop charts during those decades with a string of successful singles and albums on both sides of the Atlantic before the competition got to him. But Sayer's songs have stood the test of time - the disco hit You Make Me Feel Like Dancing (1976) has cropped up in movies like Charlie's Angels (2000) and Enchanted (2007); and he's been told his version of More Than I Can Say is belted out at karaoke joints worldwide about five million times a week.

The fuzzy-haired pop star is now ready to put his money where his mouth is, with a new album, Restless Years, set for release later this month. "Every song on it is a contender," claims Sayer, who has also penned hits for Cliff Richard (Dreamin') and The Who's Roger Daltrey (Giving It All Away). That confidence can perhaps be attributed to the successful comeback trail he's mounted lately. Since moving to Australia about a decade ago, he's been playing at least 80 shows a year and is about to kick off another tour with his first for 2015 held right here at the Esplanade on Saturday.

The last time he played in Singapore was in 1982 and he's raring to go again, fresh from his winter vacation in Italy. "I'm not sure if I'll even have any time to preview any of the new songs because as it is, I think I already have to be on stage for about three hours," he laughs, before rattling off a long list of hits he's set to play with his all-star band, "I get as much out of it as the audience!"

Sayer attributes his current career revival to the popularity of reality singing competitions where contestants often belt out updated versions of decades-old classic hits. "Something weird has happened in the last 10 years: my contemporaries and I have suddenly become more popular (because) people want to see the real thing - they want the legends and entertainers - not just an act that has one hit," he says.

And with decades of experience behind him, Sayer is brimming with confidence that he has what it takes to capture the audience. "It's something you can't teach the kids; you have to perform for 40 years to have that," he adds. "It's a real skill learning how to build a show and there's a lot of craft in what we do - you see it also in shows by Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Tom Jones; we know the tricks!"

The only thing that can and does slow him down unfortunately is the effects of ageing. "Obviously when you get older, you get the aches and pains - there's a new song on my new album about that actually, but it's incredible how it will all come back to you once you hit the stage," he shares.

Hence Sayer doesn't mind crisscrossing the globe and living life out of a suitcase to play shows all over the world. "It's like being a criminal on the run but never ever getting caught... I can never understand why some people complain about it," he says. Then with a guffaw bigger than his trademark afro, he adds mischievously, "I love waking up in hotel rooms in strange places; actually if I were any younger, I'd put young women somewhere in there!"

Leo Sayer Live in Singapore - 40 Years at the Top takes place at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Jan 17 at 7.30pm. Tickets at S$50 to S$250 available from Sistic and at the venue. Charity gala tickets, with 30 per cent of proceeds donated to the Breast Cancer Foundation, are also on sale for S$500 each with VIP seating and for the after-show party. Go to britishtheatreplayhouse.com for more info