IN 50 years of playing live, last year's appearance at The Forum was Gilbert O'Sullivan's first visit to Barrow.

The show must have left an impression on him - this weekend he is back for the second time in just over 12 months.

That major anniversary tour took him all over the country, and to uncharted territory, as he ran through the greatest hits of his illustrious back catalogue. This spring's outing follows in a similar vein, but with a new record to promote and some previously unheard songs included on the set-list.

O'Sullivan, 71, says: "Last year was the 50th anniversary tour, but this time I have a new album release in August, so we will be featuring a few of those songs.

"That was never any kind of swansong or 'final tour' - I'm not thinking about retiring at all. Normally when you are doing a final tour, it's the fifth time you've done it.

"Barrow-in-Furness was a memorable one for us because it was our first time there, and I'm looking forward to going back.

"I remember it was a good crowd, but we had a great reception for all the shows on the tour.

"All the shows we do draw a passionate crowd - we've just got back from touring Australia for the first time and that was fantastic too, meeting fans who have been waiting 40 or 50 years."

Gilbert's first single proper, Nothing Rhymed, was released in 1970 and almost overnight it achieved Top 10 status In the UK charts.

His debut album, Himself, was littered with Top 10 singles, and the 1972 follow-up, Back To Front, featured the classic Alone Again (Naturally) and firmly cemented Gilbert amongst the world’s best-loved performers.

This critically acclaimed album topped both the UK and US charts for an astonishing six weeks, earning him not one but three Grammy nominations.

Now recognised as one of our great singer-songwriters, he’s been championed in recent years by everyone from Morrissey to Paul Weller, from Difford and Tilbrook to Neil Diamond.

But this new record, Gilbert’s 19th studio album, forgoes the modern trappings of modern folk music, and instead harks back to his 1971 debut.

The album was recorded on analogue equipment at O’Sullivan’s Forbisher Drive Studios, on Jersey, and the result is a collection that he believes are some of his finest songs to date.

Whilst the album’s centerpiece, Dansette Dreams And 45s, is a nod to nostalgia, Gilbert’s deft, droll observations on today’s world remain ever eagle-eyed. The album’s final two songs, The Mind Boggles and For The Record, both tackle serious issues, with references to Donald Trump and homelessness.

New single Where Did You Go To? has been released this week ahead of the tour, and BMG will release Gilbert O’Sullivan - a self-titled album - in August.

His unique blend of melodic craftsmanship, witty wordplay, topical acuity and surrealist humour has given him an enduring and endearing career.

He says: "I had quite a few names for the album, all these different ideas, but the record company wanted to call it 'Gilbert O'Sullivan'! When they heard it, they said it made them think back to my very first album, so it's a throwback to that.

"There will be two songs released before the album, with the first out just in time for the tour and the concert in Barrow.

"There are two reasons I still do it: the joy of writing the songs and hearing them come together; and the joy of playing them to people and seeing how they respond.

"The key to performing though is having a good, solid band and we've been together a number of years now.

"Once the tour finishes, I'll have a few days off, but we're in the process of scheduling some European dates. It's non-stop though, really - for nine months of the year we're writing and recording, and three months we spend touring it. I wouldn't tour if I wasn't also writing new music."

Gilbert O’Sullivan appears at The Forum, in Barrow, on Saturday April 21, from 7.30pm, and tickets are available from the venue's box office.