❚ Posted March 14, 2010… STEVE NORMAN GIVES A THUMBS-UP to Shapersofthe80s during one of his dirrrty sax solos on Friday in the closing stages of the European leg of Spandau Ballet’s Reformation world tour. The band had to take in Spain, obviously, and we were there along with their families who weren’t going to miss a weekend in Barcelona – and that included two grannies, Steve’s mum Sheila and Tony Hadley’s mum Josie, both of whom once cut fine figures on the dance floors of yore.
During the Swinging 80s the cosmopolitan and leafy capital of the “autonomous community” of Catalonia – proud to have its own language and its own parliament – became the hippest city on the continent. Any number of London’s pop cognoscenti from Sade to writer Robert Elms made their homes in Barcelona and those who didn’t made this global city a civilised holiday destination to rival the naked hedonism of Ibiza or the Costa Brava.
For the Spanish, Spandau enlivened the pop scene at exactly the right moment. After 40 years of oppressive dictatorship, Spain stepped back into the sunshine with the death of General Franco in 1975. As Elms noted in his 1992 book Spain, A Portrait After the General: “His departure led to the rolling back of a shroud which had suffocated and isolated the Spanish peoples since the Civil War [1936-39]… Spain has gone from being the pariah of the West, the last great bastion of the dictatorial days, to one of the most liberal states in the world… one of the ten richest nations.”
Spandau avivó la escena pop en el momento oportuno en España. Después de 40 años de dictadura opresiva, España empezo a ver la luz con la muerte del General Franco en 1975. Tal y como Robert Elms escribió en su libro de 1992, España, un retrato después del general: “Su partida dejo un manto de asfixia y aislamiento entre los pueblos españoles en la Guerra Civil [1936-39]. España ha pasado del ser el paria del Oeste, el gran último bastión de los días dictatoriales, a uno de los estados más liberales del mundo… una de las diez naciones más ricas.”
Tourism is Spain’s largest industry and every member of Spandau Ballet – born and bred in the Angel, Islington – has shared the British appetite for its sun, sea and sand as a holiday home from home.
From Spandau Ballet’s earliest incarnation as New Romantics, the European nation which adopted their sounds and styles most ardently was Spain. It was the only country where their debut single To Cut a Long Story Short went straight to Number 1 when it was released there in mid-1981. So if anybody was going to get a special cheer during the Brits’ two Spanish concerts it was Steve Norman, who made his home in Ibiza for the best part of 20 years.
They’d all been waiting to hear him speak their native tongue. “You know something,” he said in Spanish during a break in the music, “from the beginning the people of Spain have supported us, from 1980 you supported us and we thank you very much.” The 5,000 Barcelonians went wild.
Los fans esperaban oír a Steve hablar en su lengua natal. “Sabeis una cosa?” él dijo en español entre canción y canción, “desde el principio, vosotros nos habeis apoyado, desde 1980 nos venís apoyando, muchas gracias¡¡¡.” En Barcelona 5.000 personas enloquecieron.
He then introduced his fellow musicians one by one as “my family, because they are my family”. In less than a year since announcing their reunion, the band who grew up together in north London have resolved the differences that deterred them from playing together for 19 years. Judging by the crowd’s prolonged “o-ay, o-ayo-ayo-ay” football chant at the end, the concert seemed to meet with general approval. As did the drummer, Johnny Keeble, who now wafts like a bonkers Cassius Clay-style butterfly through a circuit of the stage between encores.
This tour has been distinguished not only by the polish and maturity of Spandau’s musicianship, but by the sheer number of exuberant saxophone solos written in by Normski. His cheeky thumbs-up came during an extended version of Always in the Back of My Mind. This is a track from 1984’s Parade album which was neither released as a single then, nor included on the recent UK tour nor DVD, and now Shapersofthe80s has captured it on video. Here Gary Kemp demonstrates his Californian rock-god guitar chops while Martin steers his bass fondly like an old jalopy through the winding byways of Laurel Canyon. But it’s Steve’s head that had every right to swell a little when even the laid-back critic for the newspaper La Vanguardia made the bold claim: “The saxophone is giving a trademark to the pop music the band practises – perhaps the most famous sax in pop after Supertramp.”
Steve debe estar orgulloso después de leer una crítica en La Vanguardia en la que pone: “El saxo sigue dando a la banda un sello característico al pop que practica, acaso el saxo más famoso del pop después de Supertramp.”
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Tone receives a very personal communication
from two loyal fans in Barcelona
❚ IT WAS DURING SPANDAU’S 1983 HIT Communication that singer Tony Hadley fielded a surprise pitch from the Barcelona audience. When a couple of capacious bras came flying straight at his face, he coolly caught them without missing a beat as he sang. He did let out a big laugh, though. As Keahane comments beneath the YouTube video of the lob, “Tone takes a good look. Checking out the size?” In fact, Tone later revealed that the bras contained a message from two chicas: “We threw our bras at you 20 years ago. We’ve waited all this time and here we are ‘Once More’ reliving our dream.” Ever the gent, he did not reveal their names.
Tony, reveló depués delconcierto, que el sujetador que le lanzaron, contenia un mensaje: “Te tiramos nuestros sujetadores hace 20 años. Hemos esperado y aqui estamos otra vez con ‘Once More’ para revivir nuestro sueño.”
Even though a luminous posse of Tony fans bedecked with glow-stick accessories were heaving away in the arena, the unnamed reviewer for La Vanguardia deduced from the solitary lingerie frolic: “From the age of the audience, mostly 30 and 40, it is apparent that there has been generational change. Shouting apart, tonight’s audience proved very calm, far from the behaviour exhibited on the band’s distant visit to Barcelona when various bras and underwear came flying onto the stage. Today the singer had to gather up only one item – size 100.”
A neat dig, but it reads as if the critic missed the show’s second half when the pace quickened and even the people in seats got to their feet and began boogeying when they heard the bassline in Lifeline that Martin Kemp still plays with relish. This Barcelona crowd of all ages were not only eager to sing along, but knew all the lyrics. And you know what they say: deep lungs, big chests.
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AND AFTER THE SHOW…
SCOTTISH CONTINGENT FLIES THE KILT
❚ NOBODY COULD MISS THE ENTRANCE of four Scotsmen for the Spandau concert at the Olympic Pavilion in Badalona. They were fully kilted and jacketed in formal attire, complete with dickie bows, sporans and dirks sheathed inside their stockings. (Some might ask how they made it through security at Glasgow airport.) Their first stop was, no surprise, the bar to stoke up for the evening before infiltrating the audience. The bigger shock was to find them partying backstage after the show. Friends of G Kemp, as it turned out. Also of Tony and John, going back over the years with the TH band.
Phil, Michael, Big Stu and Stevie have a track record of stag weekends away from Scotland, and they met Gary at a charity show in Bristol called A Little Slap & Tickle, in autumn 2008, long before the band’s reunion. Phil said: “Being lifelong Spandau fans, I quickly persuaded the others that this should be the stag destination. We met Gary backstage just after his soundcheck and he seemed really surprised that we had travelled all the way down for this show because he explained that he was only doing three songs, including the wonderful An Inexperienced Man (one of my all-time favourite songs), something me and Gary always end up talking about when we meet up.”
Without knowing it, Phil scored what we hacks call a scoop. “I asked him the age-old question, ‘Is there any sign of Spandau getting back together?’ This time instead of the usual ‘No chance’, he told us that he’d been in touch with Tony, Johnny K and Steve and that a reunion might finally be on the cards. He promised us backstage passes for the Glasgow gig when it was announced – which, true to his word, is exactly what he did when Spandau played Glasgow last October.”
The trip to Barcelona was a bit of a bonus. “This was our first concert abroad,” Phil added, “so we thought the kilts would be great as there has to be tartan at a Spandau gig.” Various photos were taken as evidence of each man’s pedigree: Phil’s family comes under the crimson Royal Stewart tartan, Michael’s is the modern alternative called Black Spirit Prestige, Stu’s is the very blue Pride of Scotland and Stevie’s is the elegant blue and green of the Black Watch.
Heritage footnote: Scotland’s hundreds of clans each claim their own tartan design. The Royal Stewart Tartan derives from the royal house of Stewart (kings and queens of Scotland) and is today also the personal tartan of Queen Elizabeth II. Whether Phil is on first-name terms with Brenda, as Her Maj is affectionately known to us Brits, he did not reveal.
GENERATION GAP YAWNS
❚ A NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN was clearly called for, but as the band and families retired to their rooms in the swank Arts hotel on the Olympic waterfront, Bianca the photographer in my local media posse observed Tom Hadley and Jack Norman lining up their own local pals for a quick exit: “Aha, the pretty boys are heading into town.” Dennis quickly ascertained that the teen team were tossing up “between the posh clubs, probably Shoko near the hotel, or Otto Zutz in Gràcia”. Our own posse’s chauffeur, German (writer and bassist with a consummate neo-80s synth outfit called Oblique) decided we should go somewhere mildly more decadent: the Plaça Reial where a century ago the young artist Pablo Picasso explored the adult pleasures which inspired the painting on which modernism rests, Les demoiselles d’Avignon.
We were targeting the Pipa Club, a well-hidden Victorian-style rendezvous complete with Sherlock Holmes Pub, which encourages pipe-smoking and general nicotine consumption and serves decent beer. Hardly had we fallen out of our car when we collided with the Scottish quartet, by now well intoxicated but game for taking deep breaths of the choking fumes that filled every teeming room of the club.
They were curiously quick to propose an international game of pool. Well, anybody who trained on the slate snooker tables of a typical British educational institution can knock spots off a Johnny Foreigner whose cue sends the white bouncing off a pool table as if it were tiddlywinks. Sorry to say, Scotland thrashed Spain. Which wasn’t very polite of the visitors.
➤ Jonny Kline’s video tour diary in Amsterdam
Spandau attend a signing session at Fame, the biggest music store
in Holland, before playing Amsterdam’s Heineken Music
Hall on March 9, 2010. (Click for full screen)
➤ In Oz: Orange vinyl and radical synths come flooding back as Spandau Ballet trigger one fan’s memories of the 80s
Posted April 24, 2010… Shapersofthe80s sent its own special reporter along to relive his teeny-pop years when the reformed Spandau Ballet with guests Tears for Fears took over the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday April 21, 2010. Jason Buchanan is Melbourne’s No 1 fan of British music, bar none, a total fashion follower who lives the New Romantic maxim that “one look lasts a day”. His vast YouTube channel features much vintage Oz TV footage that the rest of the world may never have seen. Here is his fan’s eye view of the Reformation tour, live . . .
❚ THE ROD LAVER ARENA IS A MASSIVE VENUE that holds 16,000 seats, so it was surprising to see almost no empty ones left! I was convinced Australia wouldn’t have the appreciation and respect for a legendary band such as Spandau Ballet of the kind they’ve enjoyed in other countries. I was wrong and it was GREAT to be in the thick of a really vibrant welcome, five rows from the stage, for two solid hours.
I was in total bliss waiting for the spectacular video that introduces their reunion tour which had blown me away on YouTube months ago. Then suddenly in front of me flickered the footage from their first mould-breaking performances, mixed with press cuttings and posters and video flashbacks of their Journeys To Glory – all electrifying to witness on the massive screen. And throbbing behind the soundbites from yesteryear came the unmistakable synthesizer sound of my favourite version of The Freeze. This was the essence of Spandau Ballet as 1980 electro-pop pioneers.
Then, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Spandau Ballet”. In person. The band stood motionless. Until: whoosh! The spine-tingling rush of To Cut A Long Story Short filled the arena with pulsating rhythms in full swing and I just wanted to DANCE! The band struck the same poses on stage like the early video of them at the Scala Cinema in London, all throwing giant shadows upwards from the spotlights at their feet, and I felt like the same kid again that I was back in the early 80s when I first saw this video. Everything was as exciting and still so new, modern and fresh.
There was Gary Kemp playing his miniature synthesizer on the side of the stage which looked so vintage and WOW! Everyone was dancing and screaming as I looked around the crowd. Spandau Ballet were totally on the mark, captivating. When Tony Hadley sang his long note at the end of To Cut A Long Story Short I knew how amazing this show was going to be. He sounded as unique as he was on the original track, yet singing with even more conviction.
The Freeze played live totally blew me away. What always struck me when listening to Spandau Ballet’s first two albums – and was confirmed now hearing these first two live numbers – was recognising how these early tracks more or less shaped the future of dance music to come. Those radical synth riffs set the dance floor alight back then and were now infecting the whole Laver Arena decades later, and live. Genius? Yes!
Highly Strung sounded so good live and charged the atmosphere with raw energy. It was a tidy switch between totally different musical periods, from 1981 to ’84. And those guys onstage looked truly happy not only to be playing together again but to be in Melbourne and Australia. Tony chatted to us like we were all on stage with them, saying how it had been 25 years since they had all been in Melbourne together and how pleased they were to be back here performing for us. The unity on stage was so lovely to see, without doubt THE most gracious set of performers I have ever witnessed on stage. [Continued after the jump … ]
TEARS GO HEAD OVER HEELS TO BRING A HAPPY 80s DREAM TO LIFE
❚ BEFORE SPANDAU TOOK TO THE STAGE in Melbourne, we saw the special guests Tears For Fears, the British synth-pop act who thrilled me in 1982 with their first hit, Mad World. They performed 10 numbers in a 45-minute set that was very powerful musically though low-key visually. The highlight was definitely Pale Shelter from their debut album The Hurting. Curt Smith’s vocals were beautiful and soft just like his voice was when the track was recorded. This performance expressed everything that is so emotionally captivating about Pale Shelter and it was thrilling to see it live. Roland Orzabal was so hilarious on stage and made many people laugh with his stories, as well as displaying his great musical talents.
Another stand-out was Head Over Heels which made the crowd go crazy. The whole vibe of this performance and the audience reaction was like one big happy 80s dream that came to life. Everyone was smiling and were so pleased to sing and dance along. Two other Tears For Fears numbers that stood out for me live were Shout with its fabulous intro and immaculate vocals from Roland – very exciting – while Woman In Chains was completely stunning with amazing backing vocals and such spirit. Tears For Fears left the stage happy to be there, and the crowd were very pleased, too.
[Continuation … ] Spandau’s classic Only When You Leave was full of pop glory at its best. It reminded me of 1984 when I bought the 7-inch single bearing the Parade picture logo which I loved, with Paint Me Down on its B-side. A crucial moment was hearing Tony say how he felt like he was back on stage at Live Aid which I recall so well, trying to stay up as long as possible watching on TV.
The intro of She Loved Like Diamond, from my favourite Spandau Ballet album Diamond, got me really excited. This version was slightly stripped down and less lavish but full of soul just like one would expect. A run of soft ballads now saw some of the audience sit down and take in the band’s individual talents. Tony’s vocal abilities were so strong that they amazed my ears and many other people too, judging by their reactions. Not one dud note. All artists should take note from Spandau’s ability to hold an audience so.
All the band were dressed impressively. Only the finest Savile Row threads for these boys, which is good to see at a pop concert
Two of my favourites were I’ll Fly For You and Round and Round. Images of white bird prints flying across the big screen really added to the beauty of the first, and during the second song more vintage video suited its nostalgic mood perfectly and made me smile. When Tony ended by saying “It really takes you back”, the whole band looked pleased to be in each other’s company. It was that solid. “We were the news,” they used sing, and they still are.
Then came the fun, a change of gear, and my all-time favourite number, Instinction. Martin Kemp introduced the band’s wonderful female vocalist, Dawn Joseph, who sang and danced like a charm all night. What I noticed through this track and in fact the whole show was Martin constantly with a smile on his face and looking so seriously happy to be playing his instrument. Steve Norman was giving his all, too. His talents were all-embracing as he played guitar and percussion and saxophone with precision and passion – while running around with so much energy he looked like he was having the time of his life.
Tony Hadley was having fun with John Keeble on drums by jumping onto his rostrum to join in, miming his frenzied stick-action through the fast numbers. Watching Tony as a front man, it’s clear he has such an unpretentious sense of humor and really doesn’t have a dull moment. The whole band were SO British on stage when they spoke, it was a delight to witness. What kept impressing me about this show were the clever graphics combined with live video of the band on the screen, especially during Communication which brought back fond memories from 1983.
A big thrill of the night was when the funky Chant No 1 went into Paint Me Down and then back into Chant again. Hearing its masterful guitar intro and Tony’s “I’m washing my clothes, but the stain still grows” took me back to being a kid totally aching for this track, which I used to listen to HEAPS on the bonus “Extended Dance Mixes” on orange vinyl we had for The Best Of Spandau Ballet back in the mid-80s! Chant No 1 is by far one of THE most important completely danceable records ever – Spandau Ballet at their total funk best, a glowing groove and exceptional mover for the feet. Here, live, Gary Kemp’s rap on Chant No 1 was so utterly fierce it had me watching him closely, while Paint Me Down sounded seriously fresh and full of life, with the bass so heavy as to fill the whole arena.
The encore was of course another stand-out moment seeing Martin Kemp walk onto the stage in a black leather vest with leather pants, looking totally FAB. All the band were dressed impressively. Only the finest Savile Row threads for these boys, which is good to see at a pop concert. They busted out on the stage again beneath a great onscreen storyboard for Fight For Ourselves which they so rocked out on. They gave this track such a fun performance it showed why Spandau Ballet are one of the most entertaining bands to come out of the UK.
Finally, Gold came to life all lavish and deluxe with the stage drenched in golden light. The band then walked down to the front to take their bows, hugging and kissing each other on the face like “True” brothers! They looked so pleased with themselves and with us and waved towards every section of the audience. These have to be THE most gracious performers I have ever seen live, and I’ve seen plenty. No matter what squabbles there are in life between people, their love and passion for music and each other and their fans proved the keynote on that stage. Spandau Ballet were a joy to behold.