Remember we all thought we lost Cat Stevens? Well he was gloriously back last Friday night at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. Yusuf Islam as he is now also known, invited the adoring crowd to his ‘living room’ for “A Cat’s Attic: Yusef/Cat Stevens 50 Year Anniversary Acoustic Tour.” The set was a homey wood paneled cabin with old posters of the man himself, a chair and a piano.
Sixty eight year old Yusuf, in pitch perfect voice, just wrapped up his 12 date North American Tour which also marked his 50th anniversary of his musical life. In the nearly three hour-long concert, he spoke in postcards of short little colorful stories that stitched across the years. Touted as “an acoustic evening,” with his two bandmates, Eric Appapoulay and Kwame Yeboah, Yusuf narrated the tale with all thrown in, his rock and roll excessive everything issues, his health scares and his subsequent spiritual journey.
He started the set with his early hits, “I Love My Dog,” “Matthew and Son” “Here Comes My Baby,” and his late 60’s hit that Rod Stewart made famous, “The First Cut Is The Deepest.” He then sang some of his well-known hits, “Father and Son,” “How Can I Tell You?” and more.
Yusuf recounted the fateful day of his Malibu swim, when he was visiting Jerry Moss, famed co founder of A&M (who was there in the audience), as the guest of noted longtime manager and now advisor Barry Krost. Yusuf thought he would drown and made a promise to God that if he let him live, he would devote the rest of his life to him. He then converted to Islam, which he didn’t say specifically, he said simply, “a change in my life.” He gave up music, married and retreated into his religious life. That’s when his fans thought he was lost forever. “I’ll skip the next 27 years until my son brought a guitar in the house.”
Yusuf realized then, that the world needed “peace, and I thought I could help with that.” He sang some of “An Other Cup,” which included the Beatless “All You Need Is Love,” weaved in with “Maybe There’s a World.” He asked the audience to meet a friend of his, bringing out the stuffed version of the Disney “Zootopia,” character Judy Hopps. He told how he was recently on the plane and was watching the film and saw her inspiring inclusive speech at the end, which resonated for him. He then recited the speech as only he can followed by “Wild World,” “Peace Train,” and “Morning Has Broken.” Yusuf, the socially conscious songwriter sharing his songs of peace, togetherness and happiness, revealing just enough bits and pieces that the adoring rapt audience gratefully leaned into.
Barry Krost summed it up perfectly. “ He’s the only artist that I know that sounds better, has even more appeal than he did at the height of his career.”