➤ Onstage, Spandau’s Hadley and Kemp finally get huggy
Posted October 14, 2009… Hell had frozen over, Tony Hadley said in 2007, and ruled out any chance of reunion for his band. So it’s all the more magnanimous that today he can say onstage “We are very happy boys”…
❚ EXTRAORDINARY. UNEXPECTED. From the off, the Dubliners roared a loud, exuberant and warm welcome to the band that hadn’t played together for 19 years. They cheered the best bits by each musician – John, Steve, Gary, Martin and vocalist Tony. They cheered whenever closeups appeared on the monster live video backdrop. Within a day, amateur videos on YouTube [see below] were vividly testifying to the energy the event generated.
Spandau Ballet’s comeback Reformation tour began at the O2 arena in Ireland’s capital city on October 13, 2009, with a huge flickering video montage to remind us of the way the world was when they set the style as electro-pop innovators in 1980. Headlines announced “Recession”, “Unemployment” … “and Dreams”. Then a jabbing finger on an early synthesiser triggered a chugging high-octane version of their oh-so-cool first hit, To Cut a Long Story Short. The show whooshed like an express train through 21 of the numbers – from Instinction to True to Only When You Leave – that had made the band international stars for a decade, before they fell out. It also debuted a new single, Once More, only the band’s second with lyrics by Steve Norman, a power ballad underscored by one of his many raunchy sax solos.
The evening introduced fans to two young talents in support: David Tench, a gifted keyboard player well versed in Kemp’s melodies who brought a dazzling cadenza to Chant No 1, the funk-driven celebration of Soho nightlife; and Dawn Joseph, a frisky female vocalist who added a whole new dimension to Instinction – the band’s turning-point single from 1982 – during a slick sequence of dance favourites.
For two hours, emotion, high spirits and Hadley’s massive voice, richer and more thrilling than ever, filled the 9,000-seat arena as he strode about the stage like Big John Wayne. Driving the whole juggernaut was the demented Muppet on drums, John Keeble, who must have sweated gallons, while Gary Kemp raised many a tingle with funky fingerpicking on guitar and his younger brother Martin – recruited to the band for being the best-looking bloke they knew – strolled here and there on bass being, well, Martin.
Of course there were stage nerves. The afternoon sound check had been tense. And now nerves surfaced momentarily. Halfway through the show, Hadley as vocalist and Kemp on acoustic Taylor guitar settled onto stools for an intimate duet version of With the Pride, and promptly fluffed the opening bars. Hadley straightaway broke the tension: “I tell you what: let’s do that again. At least you know it’s not on tape.” They restarted the song and the fans cheered again. When they’d finished, the two men who buried the hatchet only just before Christmas, went into a big huggy clinch. Yet more cheers.
What followed was a poignant demonstration of the power of live performance. An unusually low-key arrangement of Through the Barricades had scarcely got going, when the audience began singing along and rose to their feet, arms punching the air. This is a song heavy with resonance for an Irish audience. Gary Kemp wrote it in memory of a local member of Spandau’s entourage, “Kidso” Reilly, who was shot dead in Belfast by a British soldier during the troubles in 1983. As the song sped towards its climax, Hadley gave way to the audience’s spirited rendition and 9,000 voices turned what had been a respectful elegy into a cheerfully glorious anthem in that spaceous cavern. By the final two rousing singalongs, Fight for Ourselves and Gold, everyone was dancing.
The shame about this exhilarating party was that Spandau had ever feuded. Within three numbers in Dublin, we had been thrown back 25 years into the easy company of five lads from the Angel who’d known each other since schooldays and who were inseparable buddies. The years in between had simply vanished.
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Hadley introduced the group’s chart-topping True with a personal reference to the Boyzone star, Stephen Gately, who died last weekend: “I’d like to dedicate our last song to Stephen. He was a good drinking mate of mine.”
➢➢ Scroll down for videos from the Spandau Ballet tour 2009
SPANDAU’S DUBLIN CONCERT ON VIDEO
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
❚ Almost 20 years since they last played a show together, Spandau Ballet staged an unlikely comeback amid remarkable scenes of jubilation in Dublin. The sound and look of the show was neat, clean and taut… This was an event of considerable personal significance. Hadley, who was soon sweating like a man engaged in a vigorous gym workout, not only sang with tremendous power and accuracy, but also seemed more emotionally engaged with the material than some of his carefully manicured performances of the past would have suggested. Round and Round, accompanied by a collage of home movies from the early days of the group, was one of several lyrics which seemed to acquire an especially poignant touch… The turning point came with an epic version of Through the Barricades, which the band started playing in a similarly restrained acoustic vein, before suddenly turning into a New Romantic version of Queen. – David Sinclair in The Times
❚ The gig truly kicked into life when Hadley and his old sparring partner, Gary Kemp, sat alone in the spotlight for an acoustic version of With The Pride. As Hadley sang – “just leave me with the pride that I’ve worked for” – and Kemp accompanied him on guitar, they achieved an intimacy that their earlier forced bonhomie (“Missed you” – “Missed you too, darling”) sorely lacked. – Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph
❚ The Londoners still have their mojo, if not their errant fashion sense. Tony Hadley still has a pair of lungs on him, Gary Kemp can still whack out a tune, and Martin, well, Martin’s still got it going on – cue screams every time he got a name-check. – Anthea McTeirnan in the Irish Times
❚ Spandau Ballet, cockier and cooler than ever, turned back the clock last night. A deafening chorus of screams from 9,200 of their once-teenage fans – now mostly mums and dads in their 40s – echoed through the O2 in Dublin where they kicked off their tour. Martin Kemp, watched by his EastEnders pal Shane Richie, said: “Hello Dublin, I’m so excited. It’s like I’m 17 again.” Gold was a fitting finale and they proved this much is true – they can still rock. – Sarah Tetteh in the Daily Mirror
The way the Romantics were
❚ THIS VIDEO MONTAGE opens each show on Spandau Ballet’s Reformation tour, here shot by Shapersofthe80s at the O2 dome in London Oct 20-21, 2009. When the band is revealed live, they go into their first hit, To Cut a Long Story Short, with stark expressionist uplighting to evoke their dramatic springboard concert at the Scala cinema in 1980, seen below…
Reunited now after 19 years, the five former schoolmates remind us of the very different cult leaders they were in 1980. As we hear Gary Kemp say on camera: “We want the band to be at all times the most contemporary statement we could possibly make on modern London.” It took courage to decide to play fresh sexy dance music in a corporate landscape dominated by adult-oriented rock supergroups.
The European leg of the Reformation tour starts in Belgrade on Feb 26.
Trip down Memory Lane
with Martin’s movies
❚ EARLY IN THE RUNNING ORDER on the Reformation tour, the old romantics from North London recall their worldwide travels as one of Britain’s four key supergroups in the mid-1980s with another video montage. Providing an onstage backdrop as they play their hit from Dec 1984, Round and Round, the clips come from home movies shot by Martin Kemp on what he says was “the first thing I bought with my first wages from Spandau Ballet, which was £60 given to me in the middle of a nightclub. I went out next day and bought a Canon Super 8 cine camera. I loved it – it was my hobby for years.” This live performance was shot by Shapersofthe80s at London’s O2 dome on Oct 20, 2009. The band can’t resist turning round to view their onscreen larks, and Kemp owned up afterwards by being so distracted he frequently lost his place during the number.
➢➢ Run the video for Round and Round live at the O2 London:
A second journey to glory
➢➢ Since the UK tour and its DVD release, a splurge of broadcasting has included European TV dates (see video links in right-hand column Updates). . . Tuesday November 17 saw Jonathan Ross on Radio 2 at 22h30 remembering the indulgent 80s music scene, with the hour-long Spandau Ballet Story told in what was billed as a “frank style” by the mates from Dame Alice Owen’s School in Islington, who first dreamed of stardom back in 1976.
➢➢ Saturday Nov 21, Radio 2 at 22h00 had Spandau live in concert at the BBC Radio Theatre. A video clip from this concert, below, grabs a performance of Instinction, with backing vocalist Dawn Joseph (apologies for ropey audio, but in the studio the sound was beautifully crisp and balanced).
➢➢ On Sunday Nov 22 at 15h35 on Five TV – Spandau received an award for Outstanding Contribution to Popular Music at the Showbiz Variety Club Awards 2009.
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Catch-up: links to the past year’s highlights
◆ Spandau’s comeback – live in Dublin October 2009 on YouTube videos by Michelleoshea, 131mirafiorisport, Irisheaglesfan, jennyryan254, chelseabarry12
◆ Caroline Sullivan interviews Spandau for The Guardian under the headline: Once more with girdles
◆ Six-track sampler for Spandau’s current album
❖ Pablo Motos ayuda a Steve, Tony y hasta John a practicar hablar español del programa de televisión loco el Hormiguero. Más tarde ellos deben afiliarse a él en el canto sobre calamares y boquerones… // Pablo Motos helps Steve, Tony and even John to practise speaking Spanish on the crazy TV show The Anthill, Nov 2009. Later they must join him in singing about squids and anchovies
❖ Spandau quintet tough out the Kevin Westenberg photoshoot for Once More – Gieves & Hawkes suits, polished black shoes and strictly no smiling, Oct 2009
❖ Spandau play Chant No 1 on The Jonathan Ross Show in HD, April 2009
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