Randy Newman has been in the singer-songwriting business for close to fifty years now, and here he is at the Royal Festival, with just his piano for accompaniment, sharing in excess of thirty songs with us over two hours, ranging from his one hit, ‘Short People’, through to classics like ‘I Think It’s Going To Rain Today’, ‘Political Science’, ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’, and my personal favourite of his songs, ‘Feels Like Home’, which closed the concert and sent us home.
Newman has quite a range of songs even if his delivery and vocalising is much the same throughout – there are love songs like ‘I Miss You’ (written for his first wife when he was with his second) and ‘She Chose Me’, more jokey numbers like ‘The World Isn’t Fair’ and ‘My Life Is Good’, serious pieces like ‘Rednecks’, and fun pieces like ‘Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear’.
There was even a bit of audience participation in ‘I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It)’, while the song Newman claimed was his personal favourite, ‘My Country’, came across well. Toy Story’s ‘You’ve Got a Friend In Me’ was perhaps more commercial than pieces like ‘Where’s My Wandering Boy Tonight’ or even ‘I Love To See You Smile’, which opened the concert.
What I like about Newman is the way he can change the mood of a room from amusement at clever lyrics, to emotional engagement, to shock at more edgy and sarcastic material. His voice may have weakened, but even in this large space it felt like an intimate occasion in which one person engaged with many in a way which transcended the venue. Pricey it may have been, but this was a show well worth catching.