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.”
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.
Last night at Fabrique Milano: singer Ross William Wild fronts the new Spandau line-up, alongside Martin Kemp and John Keeble
◼ LAST NIGHT FIVE STARS WERE REBORN. Spandau Ballet returned to the international tour circuit with a long nostalgic set for an audience of 3,000 in Milan’s vast Fabrique music space. For their rebirth in fashion-conscious Italy, the leaders of the UK’s New Romantics movement during the Swinging 80s pulled out the stops: the dads flaunted floral beach shirts and zhooshy silky jackettis. Up front, their new boy-wonder vocalist Ross William Wild – recruited from Britain’s stage-musical circuit at the appetising age of 30 – dressed both down in Ts with street-cred ripped jeans and up in skimpy black leatherette. All radiated evident joy to be back onstage in this handful of dates titled The Next Line to test the temperature for bigger plans next year.
Tonight they play Rome, then Padua, Utrecht and Tilberg, then home on Monday facing a 3,600 audience at London’s Apollo Hammersmith where tickets at £57 and £155 are still available through Spandau’s own store.
Monday’s event Backstage Live presented by Pips Taylor will be streamed online from 19:45 to 20:30 GMT via YouTube and Facebook. Fans are invited to suggest funny and creative questions to put to the band by emailing in advance to nick [at] moonlightmile.co.uk
Looking sharp at Fabrique Milano: Steve Norman and Gary Kemp
Milan last night: Manager Steve Dagger adds to the smiles all round after the Spandau Ballet tour launch. Front right is keyboardist Toby Chapman
Wherrrrre’s Johnny? Missing from available Milan photos, Spandau drummer John Keeble – pictured instead in rehearsals with his new bro Ross. Plus the playlist
ROSS TELLS ALL IN RECENT INTERVIEWS
❏ In a frisky chat with Graham Norton on Radio2 [from 2h04], Ross told listeners that singer Tony Hadley’s exit leaves “an awesome legacy” but it wasn’t just a matter of him playing a role as Hadley: “As a kid, all I wanted to be was lead singer of a band. It’s liberating now to just be myself and sing as me.”
❏ Pre-show buzz included this lively and reflective interview with Ross and Steve Norman [above] for FaceCulture in Holland, plus a massive picture splurge on Spandau in The Sun last Friday:
“ Guitarist Gary Kemp insists the band are stronger after surviving Tony Hadley quitting as lead singer. Brother Martin adds: “We should be so lucky to play together and have that opportunity. In the end, we’re a family. We might be a dysfunctional family, but whose isn’t?”
Tony may no longer be part of Spandau’s plans but they insist they are all back on good terms, with Tony also recently making contact after a bereavement within Steve’s family. Steve says: “He was straight on the phone and that cut through everything. None of the grievances came into it. We’re old mates. . .” / Continued at Sun online
Bang Bang Romeo who are supporting Spandau’s gigs: vocal powerhouse Anastasia Walker, Ross Cameron (guitars) and Richard Gartland (drums)
❏ “An absolute honour” – so say Yorkshire’s female-fronted soul rockers Bang Bang Romeo who will be supporting Spandau in Holland, as well as in London on the 29th. The trio represent a strong voice for the LGBT community.
A confident debut with Spandau Ballet: Ross William Wild at Subterania last night
Ross William Wild’s debut with Spandau Ballet: from left, Martin, Ross, Steve and Gary
◼ AND WHAT TOUR DE FORCE the entire band made of Spandau Ballet’s rebirth last night to showcase their new singer Ross William Wild who effortlessly filled the space onstage vacated by Tony Hadley. At the age of 30 Aberdeen-reared Ross could easily be the son of any of the Spandau dads around him, yet he had infused new energy into them to inspire one of the tightest all-round performances in recent years. He embodies all a lead singer should: energy, confidence, instantly likeability and a strong singing voice that almost never sounds like his predecessor.
Ross was announced by the tabloids as an Elvis Presley impersonator so it was a relief that this is not what we saw or heard: in fact the inflexions in his singing voice do reflect his principal experience in musical theatre, most recently in The Million Dollar Quartet, The Witches of Eastwick, and We Will Rock You. And though in the Noughties he was the lead singer in a nu-metal band called Lethal Dosage, Ross performs with shoulders, arms, hips, feet – in fact, his entire body just as you’d expect in a stage musical.
Spandau’s rebirth set list
From Spandau’s nostalgically involved opening hit Through the Barricades, Ross made each of the set’s 13 hit numbers his own (with almost as many changes of shirt!).
Spotlit on a darkened stage, his first three minutes were a vocal slow-burn alongside a masterly Gary Kemp on solo guitar. It was a daring move to persuade us to listen. By the second line, as he gave vibrato to the lyric, Ross was evidently “feeling strong”, and from here on he introduced us to his voice in gentle stages, slowly raising the temperature, until the pause. . . Then: bam-bam! Keeble’s drums announced the bombast of Barricades proper, and Ross let rip to command centre-stage, amid the familiar Spandau front-line on vocals. They climaxed with a big sound in an intimate clubby space, up close to 500 of their fans. What a statement of intent!
HEAR ROSS’S FIRST VERSE OF ‘BARRICADES’
Ross excelled in another emotional classic Only When You Leave, had the audience eating out of his spiralling hand for Round and Round, pogoing through Lifeline, and by the encore the hot summer’s evening had him stripped down to a vest as he gloriously re-energised To Cut a Long Story Short to sound like a brand-new number. Amazingly, at the bar afterwards, Ross said he was intrigued by its lyrics since he first heard this hit from 1980, but read none of Gary Kemp’s meaning into it or the lyrical quotation it contains. He imagines it is set in the first world war trenches and reflects the strange solitude of the soldier.
The band’s families and friends turned out along with veteran Blitz Kids and Beat Routers (smashing to see you again, genial doorman Ollie O’Donnell) who could all be seen grooving to Rusty Egan’s unique mixes at the after-party. Sentimental as ever, Martin Kemp had announced from the stage that last night’s venue, Subterania beneath Westway at Portobello Road, was chosen because in its days as Acklam Hall community centre, the original Spandau lineup had played a benefit there under their early name, Gentry, on Saturday 24 February 1979. In the after-bash I recognised the curly-haired photographer Denis O’Regan who was at work with his camera. Spookily I’d just posted one of his seminal band images here at Shapersofthe80s on my own tribute revisit to 1980 when Denis had posed the band in his studio and uplit them to create the dramatic shot of Spandau which became the expressionist motif of their live performance that spring at the Scala Cinema.
Verdicts from the band on their young vocalist are breathless. Gary Kemp said: “Ross’s great talent and passion has given us the confidence to continue.” Drummer John Keeble who drove the show with his usual percussive enthusiasm said: “I bonded with Ross over our mutual love of rock music. He may have come up through the theatres but he loves bands like Tool.” Steve Norman added: “He’s also a right nice bloke. We struck lucky.” [I often wonder whether Steve realises just how richly musical his own sax playing is! Ben Webster will be smiling benignly at this.]
At the after-party: Ross William Wild shares song-writing ambitions with Steve Norman’s son Jaco
Patrolling the audience during Spandau’s rebirth gig: their trusty manager Steve Dagger evidently chuffed to bits at their new singer
A photograph never before published: sharply styled Spandau Ballet in 1980 playing the dramatically lit Scala Cinema gig that eventually brought the record companies scrambling to sign them. Photograph by Steve Brown
◼ FIRST COMES THIS UNAUTHORISED BOOK that tells the world there were two bands called Spandau Ballet back in 1979 and turns over the whole myth about where their name came from. There are a least two huge marmalade-dropper revelations, plus several dozen eye-openers about the birth of Blitz culture, however well you think you knew the early 80s. The author David Barrat even knows John Keeble’s middle name. In fact he gives us everybody’s middle name, just to prove his overdue diligence. Barrat is also very revealing about the band’s legal falling-out that ended in the high court before an apparently congenial judge who quite liked their music.
Then out of the blue I find there are about 100 shockingly well-informed pages not exactly about me, long before this website existed, but following my every footstep through every month of 1980 as the second SB with the stolen name takes its first tentative steps toward a record deal and the UK charts all within a single year – which was indeed good going for a new band by any standards. Very flatteringly Barrat suggests that I am waving some Invisible Hand behind the scenes to make the Spandau magic happen and actually writes that “their success can be pinned on one Evening Standard journalist”. Talk about blush!
So what we’re doing here today is offering a modest extract from Barrat’s book for you to read how he theorises about my ducking and diving as a regular young journalist about town who suddenly fell into five years of rollicking night-clubbing. Then on an inside page you can read my own parallel account of falling under the spell of the real Svengali, Steve Dagger, Spandau’s manager. I blow the gaff on his game called Squeeze the Lemon.
David Barrat says he became “just an ordinary fan of the band” at the age of 16, who two decades later created a cult SB-related MSN group online called Deformation. It focussed on three subjects: 1, origins of the band’s name; 2, whether SB were real “New Romantics” or not, as a friend’s mum claimed; 3, the legal battle that tore the band apart in the late 1990s. He tackles other questions such as “When was Gary Kemp visited at home by a bishop? What was the real story behind Bob Geldof’s idea for the Band Aid Christmas single?” All the while he unnervingly debunks myths put about by celebrities with faulty memories.
He has also dug up a mass of colourful detail about London clubland in the past when the police were as dodgy as the club-owners, the notorious Roxy in particular, which adds quite a bit to the sum of human knowledge.
So tuck into Barrat’s own book in the extract embedded here as a PDF which will open in a new window. Then contrast it with my own account at the link below.
Click on this image to read the David Barrat book extract
Spandau’s new boy Ross William Wild met Martin Kemp when they both appeared in Million Dollar Quartet
✭ The identity of the new Spandau vocalist has been cracked: He is a 30-year-old former Aberdeen Grammar School pupil, born in February 1988, whose original name is Ross William Davidson. He has a sister Lucy Indiana Wild living in Canada (and it’s sheer coincidence that today he has a friend called Will Davidson). Ross trained for the stage at Aberdeen Youth Music Theatre from the age of 10, and then studied Musical Theatre at Glasgow Academy of Music Theatre Arts.
Spandau’s new boy Ross William Wild with Nile Rogers at Abbey Road Studios this year – at Instagram
✭ His first instrument was guitar when he was 8 and the first chords that he struck were the blues chords.
✭ Describes himself as musician, singer, actor, writer and adventurer. Tweeted that he enjoyed the Charles II: Art and Power exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery.
Spandau’s new boy Ross William Wild – at Twitter
✭ In 2016 he released his debut solo album Wild Tracks which includes songs written with Trisha Ward.
✭ In 2016 Ross played Elvis Presley in the hit West End musical Million Dollar Quartet and shared the stage with Martin Kemp when he took over the role of record producer Sam Phillips who discovered Presley.
✭ Above, Ross featured as the popular and handsome Daniel in the raunchy 2011 film Downing, where he has sex scenes with a woman and a man. He speaks with a clear Scottish accent.
MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984
They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did.
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb, 1983)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
An “invaluable website” — historian Dominic Sandbrook, 2012
A UNIQUE HISTORY
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SEARCH our 700 posts or ZOOM DOWN TO THE ARCHIVE INDEX
NEWS — OLD FACES, NEW MIXES FOR THE 20-TEENS
✱ Photographic innovator Peter Ashworth is mounting a major retrospective of his career in music (Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox, pictured) and fashion from street to high-concept marketing since first shooting Visage in 1979. Open Tue–Sun noon till 5pm, from 16 Nov–20 Dec at Lever Gallery, 153 Goswell Rd, EC1V 7HD
✱ Ex-Spandau singer Tony Hadley’s Talking To The Moon UK tour was a triumph at the London Palladium. . . View Tone’s first YouTube music video – for his single Tonight Belongs To Us, from his album Talking To The Moon … Hadley’s events list gives more live dates through to his Stepback! 80s Christmas Concert, 22 Dec in Coventry, then on to Holland
✱ Latest from legendary Blitz Club deejay and remixer Rusty Egan: Welcome to the Remix at Bandcamp, plus Welcome to the Beach in which Austrian producer HP Hoeger and Egan have taken last year’s Welcome to the Dance Floor and transformed it for the beach with additional musicians joining in and adaptations and spoken word. . . More Egan mixes at Mixcloud. . . and personal playlists at Soundcloud. This man seems to own the interweb.
✱ Jeff Young on Jazz FM recently made the new 18-track Siren his album of the week. Superbly crafted by Londoner Robb Scott, with strong supporting lineup, for the Expansion label. Soul Brother Records says: “A collection of classy soul/jazz grooves on that has jazz at its heart but with some superb soulful brushstrokes applied.” Purchase directly from the artist’s store
✱ One Nation Under the Groove – Wag club legend Chris Sullivan currently resident on Fridays at Mau Mau, 265 Portobello Road “which looks like a New York rhythm ’n’ blues soul bar.” Playing rare funk and disco from the likes of Mantus, Father Time,The Kinsman Band plus Parliament, Bohannon and Larry Young – sample him at Mixcloud. . . Sullivan’s book Rebel Rebel, “a riotous history of people and things that broke the mould”, is due from Unbound soon
✱ If you thought there was no more to know about the birth of Blitz culture in 1980 then get your hands on a sensational new book by an obsessive music fan called David Barrat. It is gripping, original and epic – a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as mind-tingling as a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Titled both New Romantics Who Never Were and The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet! Sample this initial taster here at Shapers of the 80s
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