Jon Stevens rose to fame in the 1980s, the decade when more was most definitely more. Over 30 years later, he’s still got the same mindset. Instead of just one London gig, the Australian rock legend is playing five across the city. And, although the venues are far more intimate than those he’s used to, don’t for one second think he’s scaled back.
He’s brought the full band who supported him at the Isle of Wight Festival, even though they struggle to fit on the Borderline stage. He’s brought a team of audio and lighting engineers so, although the volume’s turned up to 11, the sound’s crystal clear. He’s filled the alcove at the right of the venue with gear. He’s stuffed the setlist with explosive highlights from a long and winding career. And he belts out each and every one like Paul Rodgers has had an adrenaline shot straight to the heart.
There’s a stomping Angel In Your Eyes, originally recorded by The Dead Daisies, the supergroup/collective he formed in 2012. There’s a balls to the wall take on INXS classic Kick, harking back to the period he fronted the group following Michael Hutchence’s death.
There are the smash hits from the late ‘80s heyday of Noiseworks, like the soaring Take You Higher (complete with gospel backing vocals and an organ solo that channels Stevie Wonder’s Superstitious), an impromptu, audience-requested rendition of Take Me Back (the biggest power ballad Aerosmith never wrote), and a steaming Hot Chilli Woman that leaves the audience almost as sweaty as the band.
Stevens’ extensive solo back catalogue gets a good look-in with the likes of blue-eyed soul rocker Living The Life and the rousing Closer To God (both from 2011’s Changing Times), and simply unstoppable rock anthem Supabad (off 2015’s Woman).
And his forthcoming album, Starlight, is introduced with a variety of cuts suggesting the collection could be his most diverse and ambitious yet. Co-written and produced by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, the LP has gutsy old school rockers (Devil In My Heart is all tribal rhythms, gut-busting vocals, and scorching guitar solos), wholehearted ballads (the gorgeous title track ranks among his best), bluesy barnstormers (lead single Hold On certainly fits the bill), and plenty of passion (like the suitably spiritual Oh Lord).
There’s even a hot-blooded duet (Something ‘Bout You) performed tonight with backing singer Ulrika Bergelind, and unexpected traces of hip-hop (the exuberant All About The People breaks down into a rap delivered by Stevens’ son Levi Jay).
But regardless of who joins him up on the Borderline stage, this is very much Stevens’ show. And it’s a thrill to see up-close.
The single Hold On is out on 30th June. The album Starlight is released in the UK this September.
Live review of Jon Stevens @ Borderline by Nils van der Linden on 17th June 2017. Photography by Edyta K.