Rick Astley is still never gonna give you up. Or let you down.
The English singer, known these days as much for being the internet punchline that inspired the confusing pastime of “Rick rolling” as he is for his string of ’80s hits, played a secret 90-minute show at The Box on the Lower East Side Wednesday night, his first American concert since 1989.
“This feels real, real weird,” Astley told the capacity crowd. “These are things you dream about.”
The concert was the kickoff for the rollout of his upcoming “50” (BMG) album, his first American release since 1993. And Astley showed that his new music still features that same deep, soulful voice that brought him hits like “Together Forever” and, of course, “Never Gonna Give You Up,” the video that has frustrated millions of gullible web surfers. (Astley became an internet meme again during the Republican National Convention as fans compared Melania Trump’s speech extolling the virtues of her husband to the lyrics of Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”) Astley, however, is eager to put the focus back on his music. The new single, “Keep Singing,” gives his brand of soul a more contemporary twist and a darker feel, creating a ballad that leans more toward the music of Hozier than Astley’s work in the ’80s.
His charming current style also included a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and bits of Rihanna’s “We Found Love.”
However, he didn’t skimp on his early work. “Are you ready to go back to the ’80s? Of course you are,” he said, as he introduced “Together Forever,” which turned into a disco-fied singalong. But that paled, of course, compared to the massive ovation for “Never Gonna Give You Up.”