BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
A little more than a year ago, Rick Astley performed in Atlanta for the first time.
Somehow, even in his late-‘80s/early-‘90s heyday — when “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “Together Forever” were merely pop radio smashes and not Internet memes since, you know, the Internet didn’t really exist — Astley bypassed the city on any visits to the U.S.
But it apparently went so well that the soulful British singer filled with self-deprecating humor is heading back to the same venue — Center Stage — for another performance on Tuesday.
Astley is keeping his set lists heavy on hits and fan favorites, but following the success of his 2016 album, “50” — named for his momentous age at the time — he has another new album ready for release.
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The genial Astley checked in from England a couple of weeks ago to catch us up.
Q: Last year on your tour, you came to Atlanta for the first time. Do you have any recollection of the show and how it went?
A: I’m really good friends with Elton John’s guitarist, Davey (Johnstone), and I knew about that venue (Center Stage) because they recorded their own stuff there. I know Elton and the guys spent time there because Elton has a place in Atlanta. (This year), it’s our last gig of this leg, actually. On the one hand, the end of tours is always a bit sad, but on the other end, you let it all hang out.
Q: Did you enjoy touring America?
A: It’s a bit different sometimes. When you play enormous cities like New York, you can get on a proper TV show and get exposure, but most of the venues we’re playing in America aren’t that big. Your ego wants to play in an arena, and on the one end, I don’t want to play to 1,000 people. And then you get in front of them and it’s amazing. People shout (stuff) out and you can hear them and see them, and every now and again, you go somewhere you have never been to.
Q: Are you busing or flying?
A: I don’t love flying, so I would love to sleep on the bus overnight. I did a bit of driving last time, from Toronto to Nashville. You see a bit of America, even if it’s just to get out at a truck stop and go, “Oh my God, look at that view.” I drove from Vegas to Phoenix and that’s an amazing view because you’ve seen that landscape all your life. I would stop at a couple of points just to take in the view.
Q: Do you get recognized when you’re out driving on your own?
A: People don’t even recognize me in the local pub here (laughs)! Even if I do, it’s not going to change anything in my routine. I think people at that kind of level (of fame), it’s a bit too much. You start living your life in a certain way to accommodate that, and I never moaned about it. That’s just the way it is.
Q: You’ve got a new record in the works. Did recording “50” rekindle your desire to make new music?
A: I did “50” really kind of as a hobby album, and then it just kind of turned into something else. I made the record at home, produced it and played all of the instruments. Not really anywhere else but the U.K. it went crazy, and it gave me a taste to do more music. We’re not going to play any of the new songs on this tour; social media being the way it is, someone will put it on YouTube and it’s a little early for that. … I think there was an element of me saying “50” wasn’t a fluke and I can do it again. So who knows? I think there was a bit of empathy from people that I was 50 and decided to make a new record, so I can’t expect that again. I think I had a bit of new artist thing going for me, but that cat’s out of the bag!
Q: Do you feel like the “Rickrolling” phenomenon has cooled a little?
A: It’s almost just become this little thing now, and people use it for loads of things and it pops up in different things and has its own little space on the Internet. I’ve never tried to do too many things with it and let it do its own thing. … I retired for a long time, and even though I’m obviously very attached to those songs, I also didn’t feel like that’s my identity because I wasn’t that guy for 15 years. Sometimes you remember, yeah, it’s a different world.
8 p.m. Tuesday. $39. Center Stage, 1374 W. Peachtree St., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.