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No Smokie Without Fire!
Graham Clark, Features Writer
It is hard to believe that it is over 40 years since Chris Norman and Smokie graced the charts on a regular basis. The Bradford group found success when hit songwriters Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn discovered the band and from then on they were regulars in the charts and on Top of the Pops, Supersonic and other pop TV programmes of the day.

Straying way from their normal pop formula that they had used on others, acts such as Mud, Suzi Quatro and The Sweet amongst others, Chapman and Chinn deployed a strong combination of harmonies and melodies to create a sound that would take Smokie around the world with fame and success at their feet.

Chris Norman has been a successful solo performer now for more years than he was the lead singer of Smokie. Whilst his profile might not be as large in his home country as it is in Germany, Poland and Russia, where he is a massive act, to see Norman play live gigs in the UK is a rare treat.

Fortunately his live band has 3 musicians who are able to sing those harmonies that were a staple of most of the Smokie hits. Like his music, he has aged well and looked far younger than his 68 years.

Wisely mixing in his solo tracks with the Smokie songs, Norman and his 5 piece band brought the magic and live excitement to West Yorkshire that many gigs these days lack.

Starting off with a solo track, Sweet Virginia it wasn’t long before he and the band were going back to the mid 1970’s. It is easy to forget all the hits Smokie had: Lay Back In The Arms of Someone, For A Few Dollars More, Mexican Girl and of course Living Next Door to Alice (thankfully sung without the Roy Chubby Brown interpretation).

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If You Think You Know How To Love Me, Smokie’s debut hit from 1975 benefitted from the acoustic version coupled in with Simon and Garfunkel’s hit The Boxer.

Midnight Lady his big German hit might mean nothing this side of the channel but that did not dissipate his enthusiasm when performing the song.

Concluding with some of the most memorable hits from the 70’s with I’ll Meet You At Midnight, Don’t Play Your Rock ‘n’ Roll To Me and Oh Carol, 90 minutes passed by as quick as the 40 years since the tracks were originally released.

By this time the fans were literally dancing in the aisles, two German fans held up a banner that read “Munich welcomes Chris and band” but in truth it was Bradford (and Leeds!) that gave them a true Yorkshire welcome.

Chris Norman was playing at Bradford St George’s Hall and Leeds City Varieties.

No Smokie Without Fire!, 12th May 2019, 8:35 AM