Sleevz live at Pizza Express 2021: L-R, Steve Norman, Sabrina Winter, Jaco Norman and Paul Cuddeford. (Photo: Shapersofthe80s)
Updated on 27 August 2021 ❚ AFTER 18 MONTHS OFF-STAGE Spandau Ballet sax player Steve Norman and his own band The Sleevz have returned to what he calls “our fav venue” Pizza Express Live in Holborn, London. On Thursday night and Friday afternoon they played a “festival set” including Spandau’s most popular hit songs, alongside some of Steve’s own tracks and personal favourites. The lineup included his wife Sabrina Winter, his son Jaco Norman, Paul Cuddeford and Joe Bongo Becket.
During Spandau’s heyday in the Swinging Eighties, the multi-instrumentalist Steve introduced the saxophone as his signature sound then wrote and played one of the most iconic saxophone solos on the band’s No 1 hit True. Steve toured the globe with Spandau Ballet and in 1985 he appeared at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium.
In 2014 the band released a documentary about themselves and 1980s culture more broadly, Soul Boys of the Western World, followed by the album The Story – The Very Best of Spandau Ballet, and another world tour in 2015. In 2017 Steve started playing solo shows across Europe accompanied by his five-piece band.
CLICK on this pic to view The Royal Family’s video of Gold being played live on the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace this week
❏ As an amazing coincidence, on Monday the Royal Family’s page at Facebook posted this video of Spandau Ballet’s 1983 hit Gold being played live on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. Back on duty for the first time since March 2020, we see the State Ceremonial Musicians performing while the daily ceremony of Changing The Guard took place. Here, the Band of the Coldstream Guards and the Band of the Scots Guard combined in a special tribute to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics which began this week.
Steve Norman commented: “I’m very proud of our Spandau legacy. Almost 40 years on and still going strong. My mum would be so proud. She loved the pomp and ceremony of Changing the Guard. Congratulations to team GB for their Olympic achievements.”
❏ Spandau’s original singer Tony Hadley wrote on Twitter: “So honoured for the Ceremonial Musicians to have done their first performance since March to Gold. What a brilliant job! Many thanks. Tone.”
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
Last night at Pizza Express Live: Spandau Ballet’s percussionist Steve Norman alongside his partner Sabrina Winter and son Jaco Norman on bass. (Photo: Shapersofthe80s)
◼ LAST NIGHT STEVE NORMAN’S POP-UP UK TOUR played its third set at a packed Pizza Express in Holborn. Spandau Ballet’s percussionist and joker Steve is pictured here alongside his girlfriend, manager and vocalist Sabrina Winter, and actor son Jaco Norman on bass, while his mum Sheila, daughter Lara and relations cheered from their corner. We enjoyed a generous 2hour-37minute show including a frank yet good-humoured Q&A (the first single he bought was Double Barrel by Dave and Ansil Collins, OK?), with only one twitchy moment which his old mucker on bongos Joe Becket reckoned was a “domestic” at the couple’s mics.
Steve met Joe at his best mate Deuce Barter’s Sunday clubnight called Passion at La Valbonne in Maidenhead in 1988 not long before the final tour which signalled the Spandau Ballet split. Steve joined Joe on percussion with him one night, and the same night Steve asked Joe if he would like to join Spandau’s tour on percussion. And so he did. They have been firm friends ever since and once more last night they indulged in a battle of the bongos reminiscent of Deuce’s club during a choppy version of Chant No 1. Jaco closed in to complete a trio for a thrilling percussive climax.
Guitarist Paul Cuddeford also plays in Holy Holy and Steve Harley’s band and has worked as producer with Steve on various projects. Last night he pumped guts into a range of soulish covers from Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together and Nick Cave’s Where The Wild Roses Grow to All the Young Dudes, The Passenger, Absolute Beginners and Come Together. He totally walloped astonishing new life into the Spandau hit True, as did Steve who excelled with his trademark dirty tenor sax.
Steve introduced three new songs during the set: L’Apprendista Di Nettuno, written for a swimming event and proving a soaring sensation on soprano sax; I Get Up I Get Down; and the evening closed with a snappy new potential hit titled If Looks Could Kill where he alternates vocals with that sax – well out on its own stylistically!
As for the big news, we’re waiting, tick-tock. . . Noos-flash at 2pm: Spandau are writing the next line. They say put the date 6.6.2018 in our diaries!!! F-A-B!!!
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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)
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VINCENT ON AIR 2022
✱ Deejay legend Robbie Vincent returned to JazzFM on Sundays 1-3pm in 2021… Catch Robbie’s JazzFM August Bank Holiday 2020 session thanks to AhhhhhSoul with four hours of “nothing but essential rhythms of soul, jazz and funk”.
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CHEWING THE FAT
✱ Jawing at Soho Radio on the 80s clubland revolution (from 32 mins) and on art (@55 mins) is probably the most influential shaper of the 80s, former Wag-club director Chris Sullivan (pictured) with editor of this website David Johnson
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