“We do encourage to you to make all the noise you can too, providing you don’t hurt yourself,” Michael Bolton tells a swooning Sheffield City Hall.
This hazard disclaimer is well-founded; at 65, the mere presence of the Connecticut native’s chiselled jawline and silver-spangled jacket is enough to spark shrieking and feverish fanning from his predominantly middle-aged fanbase. Perhaps it is best that his once-signature flowing locks are long gone, lest anyone attempt to claw at them in frantic devotion.
This spry, sub-ninety-minute showcase is played as unnervingly straight as an arrow; save a plastic skeleton jauntily slung across the keyboard stand to commemorate the fact that it is Halloween, Bolton leaves his latter-day recast as a waggishly knowing balladeer in the closet. Instead, he takes the crowd on a “journey through musical history”, straddling decades of standards alongside his original compositions.
Given his reputation as a big-lunged interpreter of crooner classics, it has the air of a well-worn cabaret act; warmly versed in the material but no less effective for it.
A touch creaky during the baroque cinematics of Stand By Me and To Love Somebody, Bolton warms up when he dips into his self-penned catalogue. Said I Loved You…But I Lied, with its soft percussion washes and honeyed melodies, remains the go-to anathema anthem for detractors to beat him with – but a quarter-century later, he still delivers this beguiling slice of soft rock with husky conviction.
His own works stand up best throughout; swinging tributes to Frank Sinatra (That’s Life) and bluesy workouts (an unexpected shred through Sweet Home Chicago) are fine but don’t capture the passion that accompanies the throaty torch-song of How Am I Supposed to Live Without You when he unfurls it as a skin-tingling duet with guest vocalist Sam Fly.
An extended jam from his band outstays its welcome but gives time for Bolton to emerge in the audience to screams of delight and deliver When a Man Loves a Woman inches away from a bevy of crowd members undergoing significant palpitations.
A double-bill of How Can We Be Lovers? and Steel Bars closes out main proceedings; a brisk encore of Time, Love and Tenderness brings the curtain down for good at only five past ten.
It might not go the distance this time – but it’s certainly far enough for the faithful, a sweepingly romantic snapshot still setting hearts aflutter all these years later.