Category Archives: live music

1979 ➤ Spandau’s manager Steve Dagger tells of two offers to sign his band at their debut

Spandau Ballet, Blitz Club, New Romantics, debut, 40th anniversary, Steve Strange, London

Spandau Ballet’s debut beneath festive bunting: Steve Strange in PX frills introduces the new band at the Blitz Christmas party in December 1979… Tony Hadley supercool in collar, tie, waistcoat and overcoat, Martin Kemp in jaunty trilby with Steve Norman beyond

On the 40th anniversary of Spandau Ballet’s debut
performance at London’s Blitz club spearheading
the post-punk new wave, the band’s manager
Steve Dagger publishes his eye-witness account…

❏ On the 5th of December 1979, Spandau Ballet was born. After a year in metamorphosis and following a successful preview show two weeks before at Halligan’s rehearsal studios, when they were named by journalist and broadcaster to be, Robert Elms, Spandau Ballet emerged onto the stage and into the world at the Blitz on the occasion of Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s Christmas party in 1979.

Much has been written about the Blitz and its extraordinary position as a cultural funnel at the beginning of the 80s. But Spandau Ballet’s two performances there and subsequent meteoric rise to success did much to drive this tiny club and its spectacular clientele into the headlines and its ethos into popular culture and serve as the template to the 80s.

What happened that night?

No band had played before at a Steve Strange/Rusty Egan event, so the audience was not used to seeing live music in this context. Music was normally provided by Rusty Egan’s DJing, an extraordinary montage of epic electronica which seemed to give a tantalizing glimpse of a future we were all going to take part in.

How would “Spandau Ballet” be received? The preview show had gone incredibly well, so a handful of our friends and key faces on the scene had seen the band already, liked them and spread the word. But it was an impossibly cool crowd. Whether they were fashion students, artists, embryonic designers, wannabe writers, film directors or just London’s coolest of the cool night people, they all had an opinion of themselves and everything else.

The usual crowd was supplemented by a sprinkling of older cognoscenti, a Chelsea crowd who had become aware of the Blitz scene. The likes of Keith Wainwright, uber-cool hairdresser of Smile; artist Dougie Fields to name but a few, plus some musicians who had been drawn to the Blitz. Richard Burgess of Landscape (Spandau Ballet producer to be), Midge Ure of Ultravox and Billy Idol, Steve Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Marco Pirroni of Adam & The Ants.

Spandau Ballet, Tony Hadley , Blitz Club, New Romantics, Steve Strange, London

Spandau Ballet’s second Blitz date, January 1980, most sporting bow ties: Gary Kemp on synth at left, Tony Hadley as vocalist, with Steve Norman and Martin Kemp on guitars held high in their anti-rock stance

So the battle lines were drawn and into the valley death… Actually, the band were much less nervous than they had been for the preview show and also excited about playing in “their” club. When Rusty’s music stopped and they got onto the tiny stage there was a degree of anticipation and curiosity. I think the band realised collectively it was now or never and they seized the moment and started to play confidently and with a bit of swagger. Some of the audience danced, some applauded but almost everyone watched.

Tony sang brilliantly. The set which included most of the songs on “Journeys to Glory” fitted the club. Spandau Ballet fitted the club. “To Cut a Long Story” sounded like a massive hit.

Halfway through the set I was feeling quietly confident and was standing by the mixing desk next to the sound engineer when I became aware of a man standing next to me. He spoke to me.
“Who is this band?”
“It’s Spandau Ballet,” I said.
The new name sounded f*cking great.
“Which record label are they signed to?”
“They aren’t signed.”
“Who is their manager.”
“I am,” I said proudly.
“Well I am Chris Blackwell and I own Island Records, and I would like to sign them.”

First gig as Spandau Ballet… 5-0 up. Another man approached me. He was Danny Goodwin from Peninsula Music Publishing. He wanted to sign them too.

Spandau Ballet, Blitz Club, New Romantics, Steve Strange, London, Heritage award,The band finished their set. I could not wait to go backstage into the tiny dressing room to talk to them. We had all worked very hard for this moment. They were about to become a very important band. The only band that could play in the Blitz. The most important club in the world at that time. Everyone in the Blitz that night was hugely complimentary and positive about them.

We owned the space, we had claimed it. We were about to go through the looking glass and our lives were never going to be the same. The next day, I spoke to Chris Blackwell on the phone and arranged to meet him in a pub. He was softly spoken, charming and very cool. He owned the coolest record label in the world – Bob Marley, Roxy Music, Traffic, Free, Spencer Davis – and he wanted to sign Spandau Ballet. Now. He even gave me a list of lawyers he recommended to act for the band.

It all felt a little strange but somehow like it was all supposed to happen like this. I felt unbelievably relaxed and comfortable, empowered, and the band very confident, entitled energised. Uncrowned Princes of pop culture all of a sudden. We turned him down. But that is another story.

© Steve Dagger
First published today at Spandau Ballet’s website

Spandau Ballet, Blitz Club, New Romantics, Heritage award,

Heritage award from the Performing Rights Society: In September 2014 Spandau Ballet returned to the site of the Blitz Club to see a plaque installed remembering their debut. The club’s original neon sign was also present for the photoshoot

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Strange days, strange nights, strange people

Spandau Ballet,Evening Standard, Blitz Club, New Romantics, Steve Strange

Steve Strange’s first interview with the Evening Standard, 24 Jan 1980, telling us of Spandau Ballet’s second performance that day

VIDEO OF A LEGENDARY CIRCLE LINE PARTY:

➢ Previously… 1980, The Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s
draws a selective timeline for the unprecedented
rise and rise of Spandau Ballet

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2019 ➤ The Boulevard rises from the ashes of the Raymond Revuebar

Architecture, theatre, cabaret, live music, comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar,

Contemporary new Boulevard Theatre and function space, photographed by Jack Hobhouse

comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar, Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Rhys James,

Friday’s Late Night Scene: Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Rhys James

◼ AN INTIMATE NEW 170-SEAT THEATRE and function space has opened in Soho on the site of Paul Raymond’s original striptease Revuebar from 1958 to 2004. It is named after the Boulevard Theatre which reinvented itself there in 1980 from its racy predecessor by showcasing The Comic Strip team who went on to rewrite the rules of British comedy. The stage proved the springboard to success for Alexei Sayle, Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

After a £40m redevelopment of the site in Walker’s Court under the shrewd business eye of Raymond’s grand-daughter Fawn James, there’s now an active programme of theatre and weekly late events for live music, cabaret and comedy. This weekend’s unruly Friday comedy set from 10.30pm was fronted by the wry Kiri Pritchard-McLean. Stand-ups included Olga Koch, whose name struck a risqué note from the start, plus an Edinburgh Award winner who sadly didn’t quite click. However, topping the bill at machine-gun speed was TV face Rhys James and he alone was worth the £15 ticket price.

The in-house theatre production playing daily is Ghost Quartet, the 2014 “song cycle about love, death and whiskey” by American Dave Malloy, directed by Bill Buckhurst. In January comes The Sunset Limited, from the American novelist Cormac McCarthy, his 2006 exploration of free will dubbed “a novel in dramatic form” and directed by Terry Johnson, the multi-award-winning British dramatist.

The Boulevard’s rebirth is down to Fawn James as a director of Soho Estates, who says she intends to honour her grandfather’s legacy as an impresario and property investor by helping to promote Soho as an arts and entertainment district. The Boulevard’s artistic director is Rachel Edwards who founded the award-winning Tooting Arts Club.

The glorious Revuebar neon sign from Raymond’s era has been faithfully reconstructed to shine out as a Brewer Street landmark though, true to neon tradition, several letters have already blacked out! The four-storey building houses an adaptable, state-of-the-art auditorium, restaurant, bar, lounge and rehearsal room. Versatility is at the core of the venue, with every space fully customisable for a range of functions embracing weddings and conferences. The Boulevard has been actively recruiting to fill a variety of jobs.

Click any pic below to enlarge

Architecture, theatre, cabaret, live music, comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar,

Boulevard Theatre’s new facade and bridge by Soda Studio

➢ Revolving auditorium is showpiece of Boulevard Theatre by Soda – Amy Frearson reporting at Dezeen magazine, 28 October 2019:

The Boulevard Theatre features stalls and a balcony that both revolve independently, along with a stage that moves up and down, making a wide variety of different configurations possible. The entire project is designed by Soda, a London-based studio that works across architecture, interiors and graphic design. It forms part of a new development in the heart of Soho.

The bar and restaurant is an art-deco-inspired space featuring pink panelled walls, marble surfaces, brass lighting, and leather and velvet upholstery. There are also subtle references here to the Boulevard logo, while the glass bridge features an inlay of lace, in reference to a brothel previously located on this street.

Soda worked with theatre specialist Charcoalblue to make the auditorium as functional as possible. The transformations all take less than 10 minutes, so the space can easily host three or four different types of performance in one day.

Developer Fawn James said: “One of the things that I really wanted was that element of surprise, because when you’re in Soho you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting. Sometimes you could come to a show in the round, go downstairs, grab a bite to eat, then come back up for the next show and feel like you’re in a completely different room… / Continued at Dezeen online

Photography is by Jack Hobhouse unless otherwise stated

Comic Strip, 1980, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Alexei Sayle, alternative cabaret, cuttings, David Johnson, Over21 magazine

First published in Over21, January 1981

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1981, At The Comic Strip, ‘alternative cabaret’ throws up the next generation of household names

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➤ After his Spandau ordeal, singer Ross shakes off the blues

◼ EX-SPANDAU BALLET VOCALIST Ross William Wild seems to be finally feeling the warmth of the summer sun after weeks of black despair. Without being told his position, it became evident that he had been dumped by the band who recruited him to replace Tony Hadley a year ago. Provoked first by Spandau’s silence and then by an insulting media interview from songwriter Gary Kemp, Ross found a new band and in May announced he was quitting Spandau. Bass player Martin Kemp was next to insult him in a rambling TV interview that made no mention of Ross’s position.

On 28 May Ross told Shapers of the 80s: “I’d put my whole life on hold and was sick of waiting around for them to make up their minds. I told the boys I was quitting and then never heard back from them.”

Suddenly this month Ross has revealed how this tough emotional saga was taking its toll on him. He wrote on Facebook:

“This year has not been an easy one. Last year I was on top of the world and then this year the medical powers that be stuck me on everybody’s favourite mental tourniquet, antidepressants. After quitting Spandau I never even had the time to tell anybody before others were told to get on TV and do some damage control, which made me look like a dick and in turn f***ed me up mentally.

Francesco Lucidi, Emanuele Nazzaro, Fabio Staffieri , Ross William Wild, Dingwalls, Camden Rocks Fest, reviews, grunge, Rock music,

Mercutio at Dingwalls: Ross centre-stage in his second live gig with the metal band

“But things are looking up. Great concert in the West End coming up, couple of international gigs, a green energy company that’s really taking off (more news to come on that soon). And best of all, I’m going on tour with my band Mercutio. We’re really just starting out and I can’t wait to see what our future holds, but mainly, I’m going to enjoy the ride and be present, and get off these goddamn pills.”

His “metal with melody” band Mercutio has played a couple of riff-driven London gigs and released a video for their first single pointedly titled Where the Pain Lives, directed by contemporary dance choreographer Eleesha Drennan. Ross says: “The song is an epiphany. A realisation that some of our best ideas and most creative thinking come from our darkest and most painful places. Where the Pain Lives is an acceptance of this fact.”

Mercutio comprises Fabio Staffieri on guitar, Emanuele Nazzaro on bass and Francesco Lucidi on drums. Their stated aim is to bring mainstream rock music back to the forefront of people’s musical consciousness with a bang. From 28 October they will be supporting Inglorious (“a young Deep Purple”) on four UK dates, and another in Milan.

Ross’s West End event next week stars Jodie Steele (Heathers, Wicked, Rock of Ages) as Daisy Buchanan and Ross as Jay Gatsby, among a cast of eight in three concert performances of a musical take on Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby.

➢ Gatsby the Musical plays in concert at Crazy Coqs in London W1, 27-29 August. Box office 020 7734 4888 and online

➢ Mercutio support Inglorious at Oxford, Cardiff, Exeter, Brighton, 28 Oct-1 Nov, then 5 Nov in Milan

➢ On 18 Oct Mercutio play at 93 Feet East, Brick Lane E1 6QL

Gatsby the Musical, Crazy Coqs, London, brasserie zedel, Jodie Steele, Ross William Wild,

❏ 30 AUGUST UPDATE VERDICT: As Jay Gatsby, Ross William Wild’s own big numbers were superb, especially The Moon That Never Rose, also Escape the Heat and Broken Wings Broken Dreams with Jodie Steele as Daisy Buchanan confronting her fabled carelessness. Musically Gatsby the Musical proved very promising with Edward Court providing a sensitive accompaniment on piano. The show boasted spirited Jazz Age tunes by Joe Evans, though often touchingly melancholy in keeping with the elusive storyline by Linnie Reedman, plus engaging lyrics, as with I Bet He Killed a Man. Sadly staging concert performances always puts an unnatural strain on the actors so let’s hope the serious shortcomings of the tiny and cramped Crazy Coqs (with a super-loud wall clock ticking throughout quieter scenes!) won’t inhibit this show’s development.

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: New vocalist Ross rocks Spandau by announcing his new band Mercutio

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Another Spandau bombshell – Kemp Brothers drive out Ross their ‘perfect’ new singer

Steve Norman, Ross William Wild, Pop-Helden-Festival, Berlin, pop music

1 Sept update: Ross and Spandau’s saxophonist Steve Norman rehearsing in London today for their appearance together at next Saturday’s Pop-Helden-Festival of 80s Pioneers in Berlin, along with Marc Almond, Paul Young, Wet Wet Wet and Howard Jones

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➤ Ross Wild retunes to Gatsby’s Roaring Twenties

Jodie Steele ,Ross William Wild ,Gatsby The Musical , Brasserie Zedel, music,live,

Gatsby in concert: Jodie Steele sings Daisy and Ross William Wild sings Jay

THE MANIPULATIVE DAISY BUCHANAN – she who was notorious for being “careless” with people – moves to the centre of the story in a musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald’s bitter-sweet novel from the Roaring Twenties. As events unfold through her eyes, we are given a fresh perspective on Jay Gatsby himself, a man who seeks to prove himself worthy of her love.

Fans of new musical theatre can catch two concert performances of this show on 28-29 August at Crazy Coqs, the intimate entertainment space alongside Brasserie Zédel in London W1. The cast of seven features, as Daisy, Jodie Steele (Heathers, Wicked, Rock of Ages) and, as Gatsby, Ross William Wild, whose theatre spells in The Million Dollar Quartet and We Will Rock You were most recently followed by an impressive stint as Spandau Ballet’s vocalist.

Time Out said of a stage version of Gatsby The Musical that it “evokes the decadent rush of the jazz era and its seedy underbelly”.

➢ Book tickets via Brasserie Zédel online or phone 020 7734 4888

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2018, Ross debuts with Spandau Ballet

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2019, Ross announces his own new band Mercutio

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➤ Duran rock NASA’s Rocket Garden, feet firmly on Planet Earth

Kennedy Space Centre, NASA, Apollo 50th gala, Nick Rhodes, Duran Duran,

Cape Canaveral concert: Duran Duran celebrating the launch of Apollo 11 in 1969, accompanied by a 300 drone art performance by Studio Drift. (Getty)

WHO ELSE BUT DURAN DURAN – whose debut hit in 1981 was titled Planet Earth – could the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida have chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of man’s journey to the Moon in Apollo 11 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on its surface? On Tuesday the Rocket Garden at NASA’s primary launch centre at Cape Canaveral saw Duran Duran climaxing the Apollo 50th gala day of special events with a headline concert backed by a 16-piece orchestra and 12-voice choir, plus 300 Intel Shooting Star drones flying in formation overhead.

Performing before the Saturn 1B launch vehicle and a platoon of iconic space rockets, Duran were watched by all the surviving astronauts who have walked on the Moon since 1969, plus an audience who had paid $300 a ticket to support the Aldrin Family Foundation. Obviously the British band kicked off with The Universe Alone, followed by a selection of their space-themed hits including Planet Earth, New Moon On Monday, Anyone Out There, Astronaut, and Ordinary World. The Brummie boys capped their 90-minute show with their biggest hit Rio.

Keyboardist Nick Rhodes, who had watched the Moon-landing on TV as a seven-year-old, said: “It was surreal and awe-inspiring. Science-fiction unfolding before us, opening our minds to what mankind was capable of achieving.”

Kennedy Space Centre, NASA, Apollo 50th gala, Nick Rhodes, Duran Duran,

Duran Duran at Cape Canaveral: playing their space-themed hits to honour the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon launch. (Getty)


❏ KSC setlist – The Universe Alone, Planet Earth/Space Oddity, Anyone Out There, Astronaut, Ordinary World, (Reach Up for the) Sunrise, Walking on the Moon (Police cover), Wild Boys, Hungry Like the Wolf, Come Undone, Notorious, Pressure Off, White Lines (Don’t Do It) (Grandmaster Melle Mel cover), Girls on Film, Save a Prayer, View to a Kill, Rio.


➢ More pictures at Duran’s own website

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