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Katherine is the Managing Editor at The Hudsucker. She has been working in libraries for the past 10 years and holds a B.A. in American Studies & Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. In her free time, the Seattleite enjoys writing fiction, going to brunch, taking long walks with her roommate, and playing Dungeons & Dragons with her friends. Katherine is a huge fan of the Seattle Mariners and has probably seen every Marvel movie at least five times. She loves classic rock and can quote even the most obscure lines from The Simpsons. Follow Katherine on Twitter: @thethingiskat.

Concert Review: Al Stewart Brings His ‘Year of the Cat’ Tour to Edmonds

Image Credit: Lori Stoll

It’s rare to be able to hear one of your favorite albums played live all the way through, but I was lucky enough to experience this when British folk musician Al Stewart brought his Year of the Cat tour to the Edmonds Center for the Arts in Edmonds, Washington on Friday night.

Joined by Chicago area band The Empty Pockets, who served as both an opening act and backing band, and multi-instrumentalist Marc Macisso, Stewart brought the iconic Alan Parsons produced Platinum album to life in front of a sold out crowd. Featuring great musicianship and storytelling, Stewart breathed new life into his iconic album and put on a show that was a real treat for everyone in the audience.

The show on Nov. 10 got off to a great start with The Empty Pockets putting on an energetic set that more than won over the crowd. After a brief intermission, travel writer extraordinaire and local favorite Rick Steves came on stage and gave Stewart a lovely introduction. Throughout the set, Stewart remarked that he normally plays solo acoustic shows, but praised the musical talents of Macisso and The Empty Pockets. Though an acoustic set from Stewart would have been lovely, the extra musical accompaniment brought out a liveliness and edge to many of his songs. He began the set with the songs “Sirens of Titan,” “Antarctica,” and “Time Passages,” a song he said was indicative of his song writing as he always writes about different time periods and events, before getting into Year of the Cat.

Image Credit: Fred Kuhlman

He played the album tracks in order, starting with “Lord Grenville,” a song about Sir Richard Grenville, an English sailor who died in battle in 1591. Stewart then moved onto “On the Border,” which he said was inspired by the conflicts in Spain and Rhodesia. After playing “Midas Shadow,” Stewart told a few stories relating to the next track on the album, “Sand in Your Shoes.” He explained that the song was a Bob Dylan “pastiche” because after hearing Dylan on the radio (Stewart does a spot on Bob Dylan impression, by the way) he felt he might be able to make it too. His record label was really pressuring him to write songs that would be popular commercially, and though Dylan and folk music were becoming popular, “Sand in Your Shoes” was only a hit in South Africa.

Stewart continued on with “If It Doesn’t Come Naturally, Leave It” and “Flying Sorcery” before jumping into crowd favorite “Broadway Hotel.” The song, he explained, came about from his label’s desire to have him write something about sex. The songwriting process included wine and Albert Camus, among other things, and ended with “Broadway Hotel.” Next was “One Stage Before,” of which he said he wasn’t sure what the song was actually about. He talked a little about his usual writing process in regards to the song and how he normally writes up to 12 verses when writing a song and then picks the best ones. For this one, however, he said that looking back some of the best verses didn’t make the cut. The song was originally inspired by Lewis Carroll, but those lyrics didn’t make the cut, and thus he wasn’t really sure what it ended up being about.

Image Credit: RCA Records

When it came time to talk about the title track, Stewart told a story of being on tour in America with Linda Ronstadt and how it wasn’t really a great experience for him. But one night during soundcheck, his piano player played a melody similar to that in “Year of the Cat.” He asked if he could write lyrics to it, and though the piano player said no, he did it anyway, and “Year of the Cat” was born. The crowd, myself included, was ecstatic to hear the song and gave Stewart a standing ovation as he left the stage. When he reappeared for the encore, he played “Valentina Way” with The Empty Pockets before playing a lovely version of “In Brooklyn” by himself with his guitar. Though having a backing band for the Year of the Cat album was wonderful, Stewart really shines when he’s solo, and as someone who had never seen him in concert until now, I imagine that a solo Stewart show would be just as big of a treat to see.

Throughout the set, Stewart was incredibly charming and showed off a self-deprecating sense of humor. He talked a lot about his label wanting his 7th album to be full of hits and be commercially successful, and how even though he went about it his way, Year of the Cat ended up being a success anyway. He also shared a story about learning to play the guitar from King Crimson’s Robert Fripp. His anecdotes were insightful, but he also made the crowd laugh a lot when talking about how the album and certain songs came about. Stewart was in top form Friday night, and everyone who was lucky enough to be there truly witnessed something special. If you’re lucky enough to catch Stewart’s Year of the Cat album tour, you’re in for a real treat.

Al Stewart is currently on tour across the United States playing his iconic album Year of the Cat. For tour dates and other information, visit alstewart.com

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