Entertainment behind the scenes
The gradual return of Yusuf Islam, the former Cat Stevens, to mainstream rock reached another milestone at the weekend when the 1970s singer-songwriter hit the stage at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, telling the crowd that this was, remarkably, his first festival gig in 37 years.
Now performing as simply Yusuf, the singer’s appearance at the Oxfordshire festival was beautifully crafted, but in some ways as tentative as his emergence from decades of self-imposed exile as a devout convert to Islam.
His appearance was as a “friend” of Fairport Convention, meaning that he only performed briefly in the iconic folk-rock band’s top-of-the-bill closing set.
The handful or so of songs may also have been a disappointment to some. He repeatedly fended off requests for the angst-anthem “Father and Son”, saying he had not practised it. No room either for “Wild World”, “Hard Headed Woman” or “Where do the Children Play?”
Yusuf Islam, the British folk singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, has largely shunned the pop-music grind since he converted to Islam in the 1977 and devoted his life to his family and his faith.
But he is starting to dip his toe back in the waters, releasing his first mainstream album in almost 30 years in 2006 and playing his first concert in 28 years in 2007. He returns to stores next week with a new album, “Roadsinger,” and will play a handful of intimate shows around the world to promote the release.
First up is a May 3 stop at the Highline Ballroom in New York City, followed by a May 3 show at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. Each venue holds about 700 people.
Islam, now 60, last toured in 1976. After converting to Islam, he slowly withdrew from his pop-star life, and finally hung up his guitar after a London show in 1979.
In a 2006 interview with Reuters, he said he planned to perform occasional concerts although his songs such as “Peace Train” and “Moonshadow” often lose their intimacy in big concert venues.
“Even though you’re singing in front of people live, you’re actually distanced by the stage and the whole presentation of music,” he said.