Category Archives: tours

➤ 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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2019 ➤ Spandau vocalist Ross rocks fans by announcing his own new band Mercutio

Ross William Wild, Mercutio, Camden Festival, Diverge Records, alt rock,

Heading to Camden Rockfest: Ross Wild in white shirt with members of Mercutio. (Photo by Giorgio Lattanzi)

HERE IS A PICTURE OF ROSS WILLIAM WILD amid musicians of Mercutio, a seven-year-old “alternative and experimental” rock and grunge band, only four months after he was showcased in concert as the stunning youthful replacement for Tony Hadley in Spandau Ballet, the 80s New Romantic pioneers. After Hadley had walked out a year earlier, Spandau hoped Ross would be their key to being signed for this year’s landmark rock events from Glastonbury down, but so far no plans have emerged. Suddenly out of the blue, yesterday Ross announced at Facebook: “My new band! Come rock out with us on April the 13th in Camden!” He features prominently in the band’s new photographs.

Ross William Wild, Mercutio, Camden Festival, Diverge Records, alt rock, Facebook

Ross Wild’s Facebook announcement yesterday

Coincidentally Spandau songwriter Gary Kemp is currently in North America channeling the guitar of David Gilmour with Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets tour, while Martin Kemp and Steve Norman are also boasting busy diaries. Otherwise, both Ross and Spandau have been zip-lipped silent, which raises the suggestion that what gossips tend call “creative differences” might perhaps be simmering away under the lock-down of signed contracts.

Mercutio were offering no further clues, except in their publicity. This all-Italian band who work in London are advertising future live dates starting in April at The Monarch in Camden followed in June by the CamdenRocksFestival. Ross’s Instagram photos show he has been in rehearsal on a #secretproject #itallianscottish with the band since January. He is also pictured rehearsing at home in what he tags as #singersongwriter #makeshiftstudio #homestudio.

Ross William Wild, Mercutio, Camden Festival, Diverge Records, , alt rock, instagram,

“Secret project”: Ross pictured on his Instagram page last January

Ross William Wild, Mercutio, Camden Festival, Diverge Records, alt rock,

Ross Wild photographed with Mercutio for their website by Giorgio Lattanzi

ROSS TALKS EXCLUSIVELY TO SHAPERSOFTHE80S

❏ A couple of days have now passed, and it’s been good to reach Ross by phone, at the suggestion of the founder of his new band, Gianluca Cucchiara. I told Ross that his sudden announcement was all the more surprising because only last month I’d bumped into Gary Kemp and when asked about Spandau’s plans, he would say only “There is no news”. Nothing more.

Ross replied: “I know. It’s all so shrouded in mystery at the moment. The main thing is Spandau don’t want to just go out and do a bunch of shows for the sake of it. The next step must be something great. It must break the mould. So we’re throwing ideas around for new music. Unfortunately Gary has commitments, so we’re waiting for him to finish until we crack on. Same for Martin and Steve.”

Ross William Wild, Mercutio, Camden Festival, Diverge Records, alt rock,

Mercutio publicity: poster for the Camden festival includes Ross in the lineup

Surely, though, it’s a bit strange to join another band when his Instagram still describes Ross as “Lead Singer @SpandauBallet”? He said: “I can’t wait around for Spandau! I’ve been a songwriter all my life – it’s a natural thing for me to do. I met Gianluca at a workshop a year ago and we gelled so well. But I said I’d got another band and couldn’t really talk about it before Spandau announced my role. I’ve been into rock music and metal all my life, and always wanted to pursue it, then the right musicians came along.”

So how does his new sound square with Spandau’s very different music? Ross said: “I’m into absolutely everything. I’m not a one-genre guy by any means and this new band Mercutio reflects that. It’s not death metal and it’s not thrash but very much metal with melody at its heart, plus a heavy focus on lyrics and story-telling. It’s a different flavour but it’s the same heart really.”

“I’m not a one-genre guy by any means”
– Ross William Wild

Mercutio are working on a full album. The first single will be recorded soon and it’s called Where the Pain Lives. Of his own role, Ross said: “I’ve written lyrics for it along with Gianluca and Fabio the guitarist. Then we picked up one of my own songs called Alex – more melodic and melancholy, a funky feel with a big emotive chorus. We’re chuffed that we’re going to debut these tunes in Camden for an album that is very Nirvana-esque mixed with Muse.”

As for the lack of news from the Spandau camp, Ross said: “We’re talking all the time about what to do at the end of the year. It all depends on 4-5 guys juggling their schedules. Nothing is yet set in stone. Put it this way: we’re not finished.” So the message is optimistic? “Absolutely, without a shadow of doubt. I’ve met a bunch of new best friends doing Spandau Ballet. . . I have my own ideas about marketing strategy but at the end of the day Steve Dagger’s the boss, so you’ve got to roll with it.”

Ross William Wild, Mercutio, Camden Festival, Diverge Records, alt rock,

Mercutio website: Ross pictured as vocalist

A BAND WITH A LONG PAST BUT FEW TRACES

MERCUTIO’S FOUNDER GIANLUCA CUCCHIARA also multi-tasks. He got in touch this week to say: “I’m currently producing with Giovanna Romagnoli a new musical called Vanara, with my own music and orchestrations. Giovanna has an Academy Award for Cinema Paradiso and is also producing Mercutio with Diverge Records. Ross was one of the leads in a workshop we did last May in London” [only days before Spandau announced Ross as their new singer] “and the cast included also the Tony nominee Eva Noblezada. I simply asked Ross if he was interested in collaborating with me on a rock project as he loves pop and musical theatre, but he also is a big fan of grunge and hard rock. We share an incredible passion for bands like Tool, Nirvana, Muse (to name a few).

“A few months after the tour with Spandau, Ross and I started writing some songs together with my friend and guitar player Fabio Staffieri. In the band we have also bass player and producer Emanuele Nazzaro and drummer Francesco Lucidi. Francesco will be Elton John’s drummer in the biographical movie Rocketman coming out at the end of May.”

It is still a curious fact that Mercutio seem to have no public profile at the major reference websites Discogs, AllMusic or Wikipedia. Evidence of their existence comes from their own website which lists their first tour details starting 21 Sep 2011 at Nambucca in London to their last tour ending on 18 June 2016 at the Tram and Social. This year new dates have been announced for six gigs in April and June.

Other slim details about Mercutio online include three gigs in Rome and London between 2014 and 2016 which are documented at ReverbNation, where we can hear the breathy vocalist covering a rocky Karma Police after it opens with a lush string orchestration. We can however view videos there for No Compromise, a pained romantic ballad, and a grungy tease-trailer for the band inviting us to “Smell bass, hear speed and taste rock”. Reverb comments: “Taking influence from Radiohead, Muse and Porcupine Tree, the guys wrote, recorded and toured together for several years in various bands before forming Mercutio.”

Though Mercutio haven’t been active for a couple of years, it doesn’t faze 30-year-old Ross. He said: “I don’t care. I’m making them work and they’re making me work. Right now, I’m looking forward to a summer tour with Mercutio in the UK and Italy, maybe some festivals. The team behind it is phenomenal. Gianluca is an amazing composer and orchestrates our music brilliantly. It feels brand new to me and will feel brand new to the audience.”

Ross William Wild, Mercutio, Camden Festival, Diverge Records, alt rock

New boy at centre: Ross Wild photographed for Mercutio’s website by Giorgio Lattanzi

❏ UPDATE FROM ROSS: He has now posted the Mercutio publicity poster at Instagram and adds the words every fan wants to hear: “Yes, I’m still happily with @spandauballet but until our next tour I’m staying creative with this bunch of amazing musicians.”

➢ Ross confirms his news at Instagram
➢ Mercutio pictures Ross as vocalist on their website
➢ Mercutio make their debut with Ross at The Monarch in Camden at 8pm on April 13
➢ At Spandau Ballet’s website no news since 21 Jan 2019

Ross William Wild, Mercutio, Camden Festival, Diverge Records, alt rock,

Update April 12: @mercutioofficial calls itself “Ross’s happy place” and that Ross, Fabio, Naz & Francesco are currently working on the new album!

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Whither Spandau? Expect a bombshell today! – The first hint on 28 May 2018
➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2018, Dad band Spandau preen with pride for Ross their newly adopted son

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➤ Truly a once in a lifetime evening of pure joy with David Byrne

Q MAGAZINE’S REVIEW SAID: “This unprecedented mindmeld of modern dance, avant-garde theatre, art installation, soul revue and carnival parade makes the conventional rock show seem as old-fashioned as music hall. Most artists don’t get to reinvent the pop concert once in a lifetime. Byrne has done it twice.” Here’s a brief taste of David Byrne’s sensational American Utopia world tour which during 2018 has played 13 dates in the UK (London, Brighton, Nottingham and Manchester this week) and moves on through Europe to Australia. These innovative concerts have won unprecedented rave reviews from critics on national newspapers and music press: “mind-blowingly meticulous and awe-inspiring”, “arguably the most acclaimed live shows of the year”, “the best live show of all time”. All true IMHO. Byrne’s 22 numbers were drawn from this year’s critically acclaimed album American Utopia, as well as classics from his solo career and the 1970s with the mould-breaking Talking Heads. All were choreographed to create a continuous visual and musical river of rhythm.

We’re happy to borrow the video above, shot by Cazza Gee close-up to the stage at London’s Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith (20.6.18) to convey the joyous free-form energy of the staging by Byrne and his 11-strong band.

'American Utopia', UK tour, dance, David Byrne, live concert, musicians, Talking Heads, rock music, social commentary

American Utopia: David Byrne with his nimble barefooted 11-strong band, heavily biased towards percussion. Photo by Andrew Whitton

➢ Former Blitz Kid and singer Andy Polaris reviews Byrne’s show in full at his own website, but here are his highlights. . .

The glowing five-star international reviews for David Byrne’s ‘American Utopia’ tour 2018 meant there was genuine and palpable anticipation surging through the 4,000-strong audience packed into the Brighton Centre this week.

The set opened with a vast empty stage, only a small table and chair with a grey-haired casually suited Byrne seated and singing to a plastic brain which he held aloft. He looked like the coolest science teacher explaining its merits, albeit barefoot and to a much more appreciative adult-education class. He was joined onstage by similarly attired backing vocalists Chris Giarmo and Tendayi Kuumba who we quickly realised, along with the rest of the 11-piece band, were agile in their dual role as musicians and dancers. It was the realisation that with Annie-B Parson’s sophisticated and at times elaborate choreography (especially for the backing vocalists) this was far from standard fare. I then remembered the work Byrne did with dancer Twyla Tharp in the 1980s, and realised this show has become a logical next step in the imaginative presentation of his eclectic catalogue. . .

The standouts were many but the surreal when released ‘Once In A Lifetime’ crackled with almost evangelical zeal as Byrne flung himself around on-stage… Against giant dancing shadows like a Busby Berkeley musical number, ‘Blind’ was given brassy punch and brought energetic solos from its talented percussionist pool… The opening guitar chords of ‘Burning Down the House’ did exactly what it said on the label… ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’ exuded an inclusive party feel which Byrne explained was also matched by his band’s origins from all around the world. Personally I loved ‘Born Under Punches’ and ‘The Great Curve’ because ‘Remain in Light’ is one of my favourite albums. . . / Continued at apolarisview

'American Utopia', UK tour, dance, David Byrne, live concert, musicians, Talking Heads, rock music, social commentary

American Utopia: David Byrne’s troupe cast dancing shadows during the Talking Heads song Blind. Photo by Andrew Whitton


➢ Dorian Lynskey for Q magazine joins the tour in Paris and talks to the former Talking Heads singer about its genesis

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➤ Hadley v Spandau: Whose superb band is paying tribute to the other?

Tony Hadley, pop music, Lily Gonzalez, London Palladium, Talking to the Moon, UK tour,

The Hadley Band: making magic at the London Palladium

WHEN IS A TRIBUTE BAND NOT A TRIBUTE BAND? And what is it paying tribute to? Tribute to the first band, or to the singer, or to the songs?

When the star vocalist from the band that’s being tributed jumps ship to lead his own new team of musicians, does he become a tribute to himself? When half his live playlist consists of songs written for the first band, he is clearly paying tribute both to those songs written for him and to that band who made them chart hits half a lifetime ago in the Swinging 80s.

This is the conundrum that the former Spandau Ballet vocalist Tony Hadley found himself enacting last week as he sang to a sell-out audience at the UK’s most prestigious home of live entertainment, the London Palladium. His evident pleasure on-stage paid tribute to the songs written for his rich baritone voice and which fit him like favourite gloves. For a full two hours Tony gave a relaxed performance, smiling, waving and calling out to fans in the audience of 2,300.

It was a blast! But why should hearing Hadley in full fig at the mighty Palladium come as a culture shock? After all, his last tour fronting Spandau Ballet only four years ago revealed that the voice was growing magnificent in its maturity. For his own reasons he parted with his band of schoolmates a year ago. When his seven-date Talking to the Moon tour reached London, his presence dominated the stage, and he paced to all sides to josh with the audience and got on down miming to the drums, just as he once did alongside Spandau’s John Keeble.

The fact is that Hadley’s voice was very much the signature of the Spandau sound for 38 years. His former bandmates have recruited Ross Wild as their new vocalist and hit the road with their Next Line tour, also this month. So, with Ross having had to learn the entire repertoire of old hits, does all this now mean that he and the original musicians in Spandau have become the tribute band?!?!

Fans of both factions have been very vocal on social media: Tony’s claimed that his voice has taken the Spandau brand with it into the very tight Tony Hadley Band. At the Palladium, we heard familiar Spandau classics fizzing with new energy and melodic detail – numbers such as Chant No 1 and Only When You Leave moved along at a pace. An acoustic version of I’ll Fly For You delivered quite an electric treat as a seated duet with percussionist Lily Gonzalez.

In the Spandau camp, supporters have welcomed Ross as a rejuvenating new broom after seeing how he has raised the Ballet boys to fighting form. Though his voice has surprising range, it’s his lighter register that has woven gentle poetry into the more emphatic lyrics, for example, in Through the Barricades.

What we can say with confidence is that suddenly Britain boasts two superb bands at the heights of their powers, both refreshing a back catalogue that was in need of new life. If you like this blue-eyed soul music, you have more choice than ever now to enjoy it. And on Monday Spandau gives Ross his big chance to win over more fans at the huge Apollo Hammersmith, as he has already done at five concerts in Italy and Holland.

Tony Hadley, pop music, London Palladium, Talking to the Moon, UK tour,

Hadley at Palladium: fluffing the lyrics to Chant No 1

MEANWHILE BACK AT HIS PALLADIUM TRIUMPH. . .

❏ Big Tone took care not to spoil the genial mood with any remarks about splitting from Spandau – except laughing loudly after forgetting the words during a high-octane version of Chant No 1, then after finishing Highly Strung, just shrugging “I still don’t know what it’s about”. To Cut A Long Story Short was first to get the mums and dads to their feet. Despite Tony describing the many white-haired couples as “blokes dragged along by wives”, many of those men were happily rocking on their feet and mouthing the lyrics. During Spandau’s chart-topping True, Tony merely pressed the right button to initiate a very funny singalong by everyone present.

Equally impressive was the other half of his set-list which showcased his own consummate solo album Talking to the Moon and other covers. Tone’s giant cadences were most assured on vibrant numbers such as Tonight Belongs to Us, and Every Time, and Skin Deep, and several poignant songs that seemed to echo his own independence: Unwanted, and Take Back Everything, and What Am I? – not forgetting his classy closing number, Sinatra’s That’s Life.

On every level of presentation and execution, the Hadley show was superlative. He was utterly at ease fronting his supporting musicians, each of whom found plenty of sequences to let their individual virtuosity shine. For the record it’s right that they should share the credit for a magnificent evening of sheer music: Tim Bye on drums, Phil Taylor on keyboard, Phil Williams on bass, Richard Barratt on guitar, Simon Willescroft on saxophone, Lily Gonzales on percussion and backing vocals. Tributes all round, in fact!

Tony Hadley, pop music, Lily Gonzalez, London Palladium, Talking to the Moon, UK tour,

Hadley at Palladium: mums and even dads on their feet for Big Tone

➢ Tony Hadley makes further UK appearances in the Stepback The 80s Tour with Bonnie Tyler, Chesney Hawkes, and ABC – and on next year to Holland

➢ Click for Tony’s own website . . . and his US agent

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2017, Tony Hadley pulls the plug on Spandau Ballet

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2018, Dad band Spandau preen with pride for Ross their newly adopted son

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➤ How one fan came 11,000 miles for those Spandau smiles

Rebecca Slight, Spandau Ballet, Ross William Wild, Gary Kemp,pop music, tour dates, Fabrique Milano,

Spandau Ballet play Fabrique Milano on Tuesday: Rebecca Slight’s up-close photo of Ross William Wild and Gary Kemp

THE PICTURE ABOVE CAPTURED Spandau Ballet’s return to live performance in Milan this week. It was taken by New Zealander Rebecca Slight who flew 11,000 miles to London to crash with her sister who lives here, then immediately flew off to Milan for the band’s opening gig in its Next Line tour. Talk about super fandom, because she’s also booked in for the big London gig on Monday.

Rebecca tells Shapersofthe80s: “I’m lucky to have the world’s most tolerant husband at home who totally understands. I bought a ticket to Hammersmith while casually chatting to him in the kitchen – he had no idea what I was up to. Lucky he loves me! Milan was not originally in the plan but then my sister suggested the short flight since I had already come so far. And thanks to the beauty of the internet, I had friends in Italy to meet.”

What impressed her most about Spandau’s comeback performance? “The camaraderie, the smiles, the ease with which Ross Wild has fitted into the group. The whole band look so happy, especially Steve who was bouncing around like a little kid! Ross has an amazing stage presence and fabulous vocal range. The sound is a bit rockier and it has a freshness in it that just invigorated the crowd in Milan.”

She adds that she’s a bit gutted she couldn’t get here early enough to see Tony Hadley’s Palladium show but she’s off to Nottingham for the Stepback the 80s concert tomorrow so will see Big Tone singing there. “Totally wish I was seeing more of Spandau’s European gigs but I’ll still be meeting up with my favourite Spandettes at Hammersmith before heading home next week to real life in Glen Eden.”

Real life for Rebecca involves being a seemingly sensible married middle-aged suburban mum and hospital lab technician – “yeah but running away from my responsibility at home to hobnob with the 80s stars of my youth!” She does have previous: last May she hopped over to London to catch Steve Norman and his band, hence the selfie also pictured here. “His shows in May were sublime,” Rebecca says. “Steve is a gent and his girlfriend Sabrina is an angel.”

Steve Norman,Rebecca Slight, selfie, pop music, London

Previous form: New Zealander Rebecca Slight’s selfie taken with Steve Norman last May in London

❏ Odd tickets are still available at £43 and £68 for Spandau Ballet on Monday at London’s Apollo Hammersmith through Spandau’s own store.

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