There have been a few different Al Stewarts through the years. His first few albums were ambitious folk operas with a tendency toward epic historical storytelling. Then producer Alan Parsons helped the Scottish-born troubadour tap into his FM groove, with several radio hits that pretty much anybody old enough to remember phone booths, Freakies, and Pong can still sing by heart, especially the tracks making up 1976’s Year of the Cat, with the title single hitting number eight on the U.S. chart, and the album itself reaching number five.
The ’90s found him shifting toward topical and even philosophical songcraft, including a concept album covering early-20th-century historical events, followed by an almost new-age period of acoustic experimentation, such as an early 2000 project solely chronicling his love of wine. His January 8 appearance is one of a handful of dates on his current tour where he’ll be performing the entire Year of the Cat album, backed by the Empty Pockets and guest saxophonist Marc Macisso. It’s hard to believe Stewart never performed the complete record until a 2013 showcase at London’s Royal Albert Hall, given the increasing popularity of live-album re-creations, and he’s been pretty sparing about doing the whole thing too much, usually offering concertgoers his greatest hits (and the occasional full-length flashback of his other blockbuster release, Time Passages).