❚ ON SATURDAY SUAVE BRITISH SINGER Tony Hadley debuts his solo show in the United States, his first professional visit since winning the British TV reality show Reborn in the USA in 2003. Otherwise American audiences haven’t seen him live since he visited in 1985 as vocalist with Spandau Ballet, onetime New Romantics turned pomp-rockers. Following a busy summer of festival appearances, the American tour represents one of the biggest and long-awaited challenges in his career. The first of his six big-city dates is at New York’s Irving Plaza, after which the divorced but happily remarried father of four then plays the Rivers Casino Stage as part of a gay street festival in Chicago.
He’s backed by his long-standing band featuring Spandau’s John Keeble (drums) plus Phil Taylor (keyboards), Phil Williams (bass guitar), Richie Barrett (guitar). In October they head down-under to Australia for seven more shows, with Go West in support at three.
Hadley split acrimoniously from his school-mates Spandau Ballet in 1990, since when the singer with the mighty and melodious voice has pursued a vigorous solo career which often involves 200 live shows a year. It has yielded six albums, the last in 2006 titled Passing Strangers moving into jazz-swing territory, though his 15 singles have seen only minimal chart success. In live concert he loves covering pop standards by Bowie and even Duran Duran. Today he’s a declared fan of The Killers and My Chemical Romance. He also enjoyed a stint in the musical Chicago in London’s West End.
In 2004 Hadley wrote an autobiography called To Cut A Long Story Short which made clear how his worldview had always been markedly different from the other members of Spandau even at their peak of success. Hadley wrote: “I’m busier now  than I was then … A couple of times I suggested we bring in a more experienced manager. I just thought it made sense to have someone working with us who knew more about the business than we did. No one else saw it that way.” In describing 1988, he devoted pages to a nit-picking analysis of the many cracks splitting the band, the last straw being the Kemp brothers, Gary and Martin, absenting themselves to star in the film about The Krays (notorious London gangsters), when all Tony wanted to do was sing his heart out on a stage. Then in 1999 the old school-mates found themselves daggers-drawn in an ugly court case over royalty payments, which Tony’s side lost. For years, the feud seemed irreconcilable. In 2005 Tony told me that by then he reckoned he personally was owed “about £2 million” to include interest.
Out of the blue in 2009 Spandau Ballet resolved their differences after Tony’s son Tom and Gary’s son Fin had met up in a pub and agreed to knock their dads’ heads together. The band reunited, they insisted, well, because all families have their squabbles and the old band of brothers from schooldays were really one big happy family again. It seemed just as pragmatic to assume that, as they were all approaching 50, the band knew a world tour might be their last chance to secure their pensions. What they agreed, though, was a one-year deal and it ended with an open-air show for 19,000 people at Newmarket racecourse on June 25 last year.
Hadley was always the non-Labour voter among the Spandaus and today at 51 he is a supporter of Conservative prime minister David Cameron. In recent years the singer harboured ambitions of becoming an MP. Given the horrendous violence that erupted this week on the streets of Britain, a remark he made in 2007 seems prescient. Tone was talking tough on crime to The Independent while attending the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool: “The fabric of society is torn. I walked through Blackpool and there were gangs walking the backstreets and 16-year-old pregnant women everywhere. What we need is Cameron to be like Thatcher, to say enough is enough, things have gone too far.”
This week as he packed for the States, Big Tone has given three lively online interviews, and here are some teaser quotes from him, which include news that his new solo album is now delayed …
WHAT WAS YOUR STRANGEST FAN ENCOUNTER?
TH There’s so many. OK. We were playing the Liverpool Empire in 1983 [Actually 1982, Tony — Shapersofthe80s]. The dressing rooms were on the second floor and there were screaming girls outside going absolutely ballistic. So all the windows were shut and we’d just done the show. Suddenly there was a strange tap on the window. We opened the window and two fans had climbed up a drain pipe and shimmied up two floors just to get to us! If they’d have fallen, they would have been killed. We invited them in, signed all of their stuff and gave them something to drink. It was pretty wild.
NEW PARTNERSHIP WITH BARRY GIBB
Q Leaving for the United States soon?
TH I can’t wait. For some reason it has been very difficult to get into the States. An American agent saw my band in Europe and wanted to get us over there. We want to come to the States and prove ourselves. We are doing a handful of shows, then come back next year and do 20 or 30 shows.
Q You have a new album coming out this year, right?
TH No, next year; I am a little behind on it. It will be the first album that is written by me. It will be 12 tracks that are classic pop rock. A few weeks ago I was in Miami for a private show and I was introduced to Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees. We are going to write together so I have to factor that in as well. How bloody brilliant is that?
SPANDAU’S “COCK-UP” AND THE FUTURE
Q Will the Spandau reunion be ongoing?
TH It was only meant to be a one-off, and from my point of view, it was just a one-off. But I always say ‘Never say never’. At the moment, I’m touring Britain, the States, Australia, New Zealand and Germany before Christmas, plus with the new album, there’s a lot going on, but maybe one day in the future.
Q What would you say to more casual fans in the States that only know the softer side of Spandau Ballet?
TH In America [in the 80s], Spandau really cocked it up unfortunately. America’s a country where you have to tour and tour and tour to prove yourself and we didn’t do that. For whatever reason, whether it was management, thinking we were clever or whatever, we just didn’t play it right. I love playing live, and the thing is now I want to prove myself in America. Some people will think “This guy sang that sweet little song True” but when they see us live, they might be surprised that it’s a lot heavier than they imagined.
➢ Listen online to Tony interviewed Aug 12 by Revenge of the 80s Radio, a New York station, with his thoughts on a possible Cool Suits Tour with Martin Fry and Paul Young. Tony leads off the second hour of the show.
➢ “We want to show people what we’re made of” — Tony interviewed by the North County Times ahead of his band’s San Diego gig on Aug 18
➢ Tony’s US dates 2011 — Aug 13 Irving Plaza, New York; Aug 14 Northalsted Market Days Festival, Halsted Street, Chicago; Aug 16 House Of Blues, West Hollywood, Los Angeles; Aug 18 Ramona Mainstage, San Diego, CA; Aug 20 Fremont Experience, Fremont Street, Las Vegas; Aug 21 Red Devil Lounge, San Francisco.
➢ Tony’s Australia dates 2011 — Oct 26 Hindmarsh, South Australia; Oct 27 South Morang, Victoria; Oct 28 Doncaster, Victoria; Oct 29 Chelsea Heights, Victoria; Oct 30 Rewind Australia, Wollongong, NSW; Nov 3 Coolangatta, Queensland; Nov 4 Penrith NSW.