WHEN Yusuf Islam — the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens — heard that Australian musician Darren Coggan was staging a show based on Islam’s back catalogue, the iconic singer-songwriter invited him to London.
Coggan, who is performing his Cat Stevens tribute show Peace Train at the Lighthouse Theatre in Warrnambool on Friday, said he was both scared and awestruck by the meeting.
“We got an email from … (Islam’s) older brother David Gordon, who’s also a big part of our show (because) of the influence he had over Cat Stevens for a big part of his career — he heard about what we were doing and wondered if we’d be interested in coming to London to meet with (Yusuf Islam),” Coggan said.
“I had a day with Yusuf. He was just embarking on a comeback, doing his first commercial release in 30 years (An Other Cup in 2006).
“He was incredible. He was very complimentary of what we were doing. He’s not actively involved or endorsing it but he was very kind and gracious.
“But it was a terrifying experience. We took a DVD to show him and he played it while I was sitting there, sweating.
“Here I was, (performing like) him, sitting next to him.
“He gave me a couple of pointers, saying ‘phrase this a different way’ or ‘that lyric’s not quite right’. I felt like I was being mentored by him to be him.
“I came back very inspired to do justice to the great songs and life story of the man.”
Despite his uncanny Stevens-like delivery, Coggan said the show was not an imitation, nor was he pretending to be Cat Stevens, but rather it was a story dotted with classic Stevens’ songs.
“The reason this show came to be was I would often sing Cat Stevens songs in my own shows and always, every time, without fail, someone would come up to me and they would mention Cat Stevens and say I sounded so much like him,” Coggan said.
“I must have the same timbre in my voice.
“Cat Stevens always got commented on in the conversation and it would always turn to ‘whatever happened to Cat Stevens?’. It was so frequent I thought ‘I might check this out’.
“I researched his life story and discovered what I thought was a fascinating story of a man’s spiritual discovery and about having the ability to make changes in our lives should we not be happy with who we are or where we are.
“Cat Stevens is a great example of that.
“He became very disconcerted with the excesses of fame and fortune.
“He was selling millions of records and … he was a global artist but he still didn’t feel fulfilled with that and his spiritual search began.”
Peace Train was performed with a seven-piece band at the Lighthouse Theatre in 2010, but it returns as an intimate acoustic experience, with added songs and an attempt to present them how they would have been written.
The show will be performed at Warr-nambool’s Lighthouse Theatre on Friday from 8pm and at Colac Otway Performing Arts & Cultural Centre on October 20 from 7pm.