To say it’s a weird week in live music is to put it mildly. Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift are playing in a venue that didn’t exist weeks ago. Lil Wayne is at a party over at the Ayva Center, a venue most of you will have to GPS to find unless you take Richmond past Fondren on the regular. A shocking number of artists booked for the Rodeo are doing gigs this week. But perhaps the most interesting on paper was Rick Astley’s first trip to Texas.
If you’re the type of person who reads online concert reviews, odds are you’ve spent enough time online to know what rickrolling is. Because of this, it’s easy to see Rick Astley as something of an abstraction, the forgotten pop singer resurrected because the Internet is full of jerks. Obviously he can’t just perform “Never Gonna Give You Up” for an hour and a half, so the questions arise: What exactly does a Rick Astley concert involve and who pays to see it?
The short answer to the first question is that it’s full of surprises. Here’s a short list of things you might not expect to hear at a Rick Astley concert but were things that actually happened: He sang a song about God encouraging the devil to Dance; he covered songs made popular by Nat King Cole, The Temptations and Bruno Mars; there was a song about why banks can be bad; basslines were at times way funkier than you might expect; and there was lots of singing from the crowd.
Make no mistake: While Warehouse Live might not have been a sellout, there was a sizable crowd to welcome Mr. Astley to town, and they knew his stuff. When “Together Forever” popped up as the second song of the night, they jumped and waved their arms and sang out loud. As the night went on, there would be much chest-clutching, pointing and spontaneous dance routines. Your average Internet user might know him as part of one of the biggest memes of all time, but Rick Astley has fans and they know the deep cuts.
Astley still has the voice to deliver his own material and he’s very charming. He’s also got a top-notch band backing him. Add in the better-crafted-than-you-remember tunes and you had all the ingredients for a really fun night in the midst of the chaos that is 2017. That should, perhaps, be no surprise, as Astley has always had a way with years that end in 7.
Oh, you didn’t know?
“Never Gonna Give You Up” was released in 1987.
The first instance of rickrolling happened in 2007.
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Personal Bias: I don’t remember when “Never Gonna Give You Up” was originally released, but I do remember the first time I ever heard the name Rick Astley. In the early days of the Internet, when chat rooms were still the primary way to meet strangers in different parts of the world, I met someone from Chicago who just hated Rick Astley. At the time, “Never Gonna Give You Up” didn’t ring a bell with me at all, and pre-Napster, finding one-hit wonders was almost impossible for your average teen, but I trusted this person’s judgment and assumed he must be bad. So when rickrolling became a thing, I wasn’t terribly surprised that the song picked to troll people was from Mr. Astley. But then I actually listened to the song and, well…it’s my favorite song that’s been ripped off by my favorite video game.
The Crowd: Willing to follow Mr. Astley wherever the set took him, except for when he talked about how predatory banking was bad. Really thought in 2017 that might get more applause.
Overheard In the Crowd: “Dude, we live here,” said my roommate in response to Mr. Astley's talking about how much he enjoyed NASA and how everyone should go. He’s right, though: Everyone should go. We should go. (Hi, Allie!)
Random Notebook Dump: I’m on vacation this week and have been avoiding downtown as much as possible, so Tuesday night was my first interaction with Super Bowl-influenced Houston. $30 to park in the lot catty-corner from Lucky’s Pub? My editor will not permit me to use the language I actually want to use in response to that, so just imagine the expletives here.