"So - what's The Riddle about then, Nik?"
A pause, a reflective stroke of a beard - then a grin.
"Actually, it's a load of bollocks."
Welcome to Nik Kershaw live, 30 years on from first appearing in the pop music charts and now on stage at the Regent Centre in Christchurch. It's the last night of his "Me, Myself & I" solo acoustic tour and he's busy answering questions from the audience. Those cryptic lyrics to his November 1984 smash "The Riddle" ? Only meant to be temporary but the rushed production schedule meant he never had the chance to change them to something sensible. Cue a thousand anguished cries from Kershaw fans who have been desperately trying to decipher their meaning for years.
Kershaw is being rather modest with the description of this show. Whilst, yes, it is just him solo on stage, he is joined by an Apple laptop and a battery of foot pedals and effects. There's also behind him a triptych screen, neatly showing a crossword puzzle that's gradually filled in by the titles of songs when he's performed them.
Ah, the songs. This is one of two major revelations tonight. Shorn of their synths and '80s production, his early hits - "Wouldn't It Be Good?", "I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me", "Human Racing" - show that they are Proper Songs and not reliant on production gimmicks. In particular, his oh-so-Eighties hit "Dancing Girls" is stripped down to the bone to great effect.
Kershaw's songwriting obviously didn't finish when the hits dried up. "Red Strand" is a highlight - a charming account of a night on the beach with his future wife. "Have a Nice Life", from his '99 album "15 Minutes", was written for his young son and his hopes of a bright future for him. There are skilful covers of Bowie's "Drive-In Saturday" and Stevie Wonder's "I Wish"...and "The One And Only", the song he wrote for Chesney Hawkes that finally in 1991 gave Kershaw a number 1 record.
The other revelation is Nik Kershaw - Raconteur. I had him pegged back in the day as the "snood with the mood" but how wrong I was. Kershaw is self-deprecating, being devastatingly honest about his faults. He exhibits a dry wit that regularly cracks the audience up between songs. It's clear that at 56, he's rightly comfortable with his life, his songwriting, his performing and the legacy of those '80s hits.
At the end of the gig, he warmly thanks the audience then promptly heads out into the foyer to sign autographs and pose for photographs with fans. Nik Kershaw is clearly more than just a bunch of fondly-remembered singles - it may well be that his post-Eighties catalogue will finally get some proper recognition. Wouldn't that be good?