By MELISSA WALSH
There’s an old saying that some musicians look more like the artist than the artist themselves. This could not be truer of Ron Vincent who happens to be the spitting image of Cat Stevens, with his wild dark mane, haunting voice and gentle demeanour. It’s hard to work out if this is intentional or just part of the cosmic relationship between Vincent and his beloved Cat. And now the world for Ron Vincent has opened up with performances locally and internationally on the horizon.
“It’s just turned a corner recently,” Vincent says. “With gigs booked across Victoria and soon to be internationally with England opening up later this year.”
The Rosebud singer has had an affiliation with Cat Stevens for three decades, since being introduced to the 1970s singer as a lad, and has made it his mission to create an authentic tribute show to the iconic singer-songwriter.
“I first picked up the guitar when I was 14 after hearing John Lennon’s Imagine on the radio and I was hooked. That was the start of a life-long love affair with music that is just as strong today,” he says.
“My dad and uncle introduced me to Cat Stevens music around the same age. I taped myself singing Cat Stevens and one day dad heard it and couldn’t believe how much I sounded like him and encouraged me to pursue my dream of bringing his performance and music to people who never had a chance to hear him live.”
And so the first step was taken on the path to his show Ron Vincent in Concert sings Cat Stevens.
“The years in between have all led up to this point,” Vincent says philosophically.
“I went on to have professional singing lessons and in the mid-90s I did voiceover work as the plant in The Little Shop of Horrors. I’ve played at heaps of venues across Melbourne and the peninsula in cover bands like Rendezvous, Flat Chat and Third Stone. But it was always Cat Stevens that was my first love,” he says.
“I don’t even like to think of it as a tribute. I am a messenger of his music.”
Anyone who sees Vincent in concert is blown away by his unique mellow renditions of all the Cat Stevens favourites. He even throws in a few that are not as well known. By the end of the concert, the audience are mesmerised and if they didn’t know much about Cat Stevens before, they are certainly fans now.
“I want to give audiences the experience of seeing a Cat Stevens show,” says Vincent, whose own relationship to the music radiates at each performance.
“I become immersed in the songs and let myself get swept up in the spirituality of the music.”
For Vincent, spirituality and karma play a large role in his life, and he says it is important to have faith no matter what is happening.
“Just like anyone I have had some down times but always manage to stay positive and focused because I know this is what I am supposed to be doing. I wouldn’t exactly call it destiny but I know that everything has led me to this point.”
Vincent says that every day is another adventure and audiences still manage to surprise him.
“Recently I did a concert where the audience started coming up really close to me. That was the first time that’s happened and it was great. They were feeling what I was through the music,” he says.
Unlike other shows, Vincent prefers not to talk too much during the performance, apart from the occasional jovial banter.
“I think it is important that the music speaks for itself. It is so powerful that you can sense how well people are responding to it and that’s all that is needed.
“Whether playing solo or with my band, we usually have a song list but will stray away from that according to how the mood strikes and the reaction we get from the audience. That’s the beauty of being so familiar with the music. It’s not about playing each note perfectly, it’s about the soul connection with the music.”
As for the uncanny resemblance, Vincent says it might be because they are both of Mediterranean descent.
“Being of Maltese descendants, although I was born in Melbourne, I have the same look.”
Anyone who has seen Ron Vincent perform can sense it is so much more than that, as if he is channelling Cat Stevens himself, transporting the audience to another time and place.
“I only have one dream and it is quite simple. To be shown by someone with a torch to the stage, to sit there and play a full theatre and be a messenger of the music.”
Ron Vincent in Concert sings Cat Stevens will be performing at:
Rose GPO, Friday 4 September
Ocean Grove Zebra Bar, Friday 28 August and Friday 9 October
Frankston Arts Centre Cube 37, Saturday 10 October
To book go to ronvincentsingscatstevens.com