CHRIS Norman played to a depleted Barbican audience on Saturday night. Maybe the counter attraction of a day at York Races had an impact on the crowd for Norman's show that evening, but the audience gave him a warm welcome nonetheless.

The Bradford singer, who fronted Smokie in the 1970s and '80s, before pursuing a solo career, fronted a strong backing band to play through a mixture of old and new songs.

The first section was impressive: AOR rock that would please any fans of The Eagles, The Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen, and it was a pleasant surprise. A standout moment was Nobody's Fool, featuring some fabulous blues guitar licks from Geoff Carline.

The set took in Smokie standards, such as Living Next Door To Alice and If You Think You Know How To Love Me, alongside newer material.

An acoustic section accommodated a decent, if uninspiring, rendition of Simon and Garfunkel's The Boxer. Forty Years On revelled in four decades of life in showbusiness and was catchy but a little mawkish. The backing band, featuring North Yorkshire singer and songwriter Michelle Plum and Dorino Goldbrunner on drums, were great, but deserved to be introduced fully much earlier in the evening.

Norman clearly enjoys the limelight, but his relationship with the audience was mostly one way. The anecdotes about his career wore thin after a while.

He was sarcastic to audience members, swore abrasively when a heckler insinuated that the singer was ageing, and, to an enthusiastic female fan, said "Come and see me afterwards". The audience laughed, but it was an embarrassing moment of male narcissism.

That sort of thing might have been okay in the 1970s, but in 2019 it looks tacky and naff. After all, it's Forty Years On.

Miles Salter