LAST year, his tour was Mysterious, but there is no mystery to Wet Wet Wet frontman Marti Pellow's return to York Barbican on Monday.

Whereas last March the focus was on Pellow's new album, Mysterious, this time the Private Collection Tour show will span his 30 years in pop and musicals, including number one singles and songs from his many Wet Wet Wet and solo albums.

Post-Mysterious, Pellow put together the new concert concept for the Private Collection show, showcasing it on sold-out evenings at The Stables in Wavendon.

"I'd finished touring Mysterious and had a wee bit of time on my hands and thought I'd try out different arrangements of songs that I just like singing, cherry picking from Wet Wet Wet and my solo work or songs that have inspired me," says the 53-year-old Scotsman. "I did a couple of wee gigs at The Stables, Jacqui and Chloe Dankworth's place, just a very relaxed affair, and I was overwhelmed by the reaction the shows got, so I talked to my agent and said, 'if you want me to sing some songs, with a great bunch of musicians playing an eclectic mix of songs on tour, I can do that!"

In the "downtime" between gigs on his Mysterious tour, Pellow would play songs "because that's my job", he says. "I realised how diverse these players were and how we were connected by similar record collections. That's where we had a collective drive that I could take them all anywhere because they all had a knowledge of singers, songwriters and musicians and this new show could be an extension of me using these musicians. I could pretty much go anywhere musically with them," reckons Marti.

"To have an audience that's sophisticated, with such diverse taste, as well as knowing the journey I've taken them on, means I can sing Jackson Browne or Sondheim songs because they make eclectic choices, and they're used to that in a concert."

Pellow enjoys how each show varies. "Every gig should be somewhat different, with the energy that you're getting from the audience varying. If they're a little bit more subdued, you can try a few uptempo songs and see how that goes, but sometimes they just want to sit and listen and shoot the breeze with you, or sometimes they might want to dance if it's a Friday-night crowd," he says.

"With the versions I'm playing, that's where my craft comes in, whereas with Wet Wet Wet at the arenas, it's a juggernaut! In the Private Collection shows, you can do songs in different ways, thinking, 'let's try it this way', taking it down, making it simple, or doing it uptempo, and seeing what the response it. "That's the beauty of a live show, being able to understand your craft; that's what keeps it fresh for you and for your audience." Then add the Pellow chat between numbers, with its balance of "educating and entertaining" when discussing the songs.

Should you be wondering what is happening in the world of Wet Wet Wet, Marti reveals: "I'm just having a wee sabbatical from the lads. I'm working on writing a musical at the moment, working with Jack Bradley and Shaun McKenna, who are doing the book, while me and Grant [his long-time producer Grant Mitchell] are doing the music.

"It's a meat-and-potatoes musical called Celtic Warrior, where I'm taking a lot of time over it, loosely built around Celtic tales that were told to me by my grandfather, fused with Moroccan music for a story about a search for a stone."

In the meantime, the Private Collection tour is on its way to York on Monday and Harrogate on Tuesday. "Here’s a show for those that just would love to hear an extraordinary evening of music, from the hits you love the most, with massive brass-driven soul numbers, to intimate acoustic ballads, and maybe a wee bit of chat along the way," says Marti. "We’ve got everything you love."

Marti Pellow plays York Barbican on May 21, 7.30pm, and Harrogate Convention Centre, May 22, 7.30pm. York tickets: 0844 854 2757, at or in person from the Barbican box office; Harrogate, 01423 502116 or

Charles Hutchinson