So when he announced a one-off gig at the Tivoli in Wimborne, a couple of miles from where he grew up in a thatched cottage at Canford Bottom – tickets sold like a wildfire spreads.
Born in Scotland in 1945, Al moved to Dorset with his mother two years later and before long Al and his music were inseparable. His “music room” was the garden shed, his first guitar bought from Andy Summers at Don Strike’s shop in Westbourne Arcade, his early lessons taken from a teenage Robert Fripp and his stamping ground the clubs of Bournemouth.
All this and more were affectionately remembered from the Tivoli stage interspersed with songs from a back catalogue that stretches back to 1967.
On stage with his regular “sideman”, guitarist extraordinaire Dave Nachmanoff, Al played In Brooklyn, Carol, Time Passages, Soho Needless to Say and a song written to one of Brian Jones’s girlfriends, decades after they met.
These were just some of the musical treats handed out to the devoted audience, who had travelled to Wimborne from around the UK to hear Al on home turf, rather (perhaps) than at his only two other gigs in the UK this year, on the Isle of Wight and at Fairport’s annual Cropredy Festival.
Relaxed and conspiratorial with the audience, Al Stewart’s mercurial take on life and its patterns is as keen as ever, and if you closed your eyes you could still hear the intense and lyrical young man who sang songs that told the stories of your life … way back when.
I wish he’d sung Swiss Cottage Manoeuvres … others in the audience would probably have liked other favourite songs included in the set, but with a back catalogue as long as Al’s it’s not possible, and we were not short changed.
Little glimpses of Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Michael Jagger … all added to the wonderful knowledge that Al Stewart was right at the heart of a magical time in music that we will never see the likes of again.
Hopefully he’ll be back soon with a longer tour of the UK – and maybe will include the Tiv, with its intimate almosphere and warm acoustic, once again.