Tag Archives: Spandau Ballet

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 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

➢ 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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➤ A personal tale about the genius staring out from a painting expected to sell for £30m tonight

David Hockney, Henry Geldzahler, Christopher Scott, Photography, painting, auction, Christie's London,

Being auctioned tonight at Christie’s: Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott by David Hockney (1969, acrylic on canvas). Private collection. © David Hockney

THIS MESMERISING HUGE CANVAS TITLED Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott was painted by David Hockney in 1969 and is expected to sell at Christie’s tonight for at least £30million and today is the public’s last chance to view it until 4pm. It creates an intense dialogue between Hockney and his soulmate Henry, whose hairline is the picture’s vanishing point. By chance I got to know Henry in 1977, later stayed at his house in Greenwich Village and of course had to try-out the by then fabled pale mauve sofa pictured here.

We’d met during the best holiday of my life that summer at a house party hosted by the painter Teddy Millington-Drake at his vast 17th-century villa on Patmos, the Greek Island where St John had his apocalyptic Revelation. Two dozen guests, several with their kids, had arrived either like me on the weekly boat from Athens or on their own yachts (there were no direct flights to Patmos) for what proved to be a conclave of amusing, clever and influential movers and shakers from across the international art scene who utterly changed my understanding of life, the universe etcetera.

Henry himself, a three-in-one wit, wag and Svengali, undoubtedly changed the course of modern art by shifting its centre from Paris to New York, and affirmed the credibility of the term Pop Art. While only in his 30s he became the Metropolitan Museum’s first curator for 20th-century art and in 1969 mounted the landmark exhibition of 408 contemporary American works executed between 1940 and 1970 by artists he called “deflectors” of prevailing trends, such as Warhol, Gorky, Pollock, Rothko, Rauschenberg, Stella, Johns, Hopper. It was an immediate sensation. A new canon.

David Hockney, Henry Geldzahler, Christopher Scott, Irving Penn, Photography, painting, Andy Warhol

My photo of Henry Geldzahler in 1981: taking receipt of Irving Penn’s new portrait of him, in his NYC cultural commissioner’s office

I met Henry again in 1981 the very day he took receipt of a new portrait of him by photographer Irving Penn. I was in NYC that May during the First Blitz Invasion of the USA when I accompanied the 21 Blitz Kids who included the synth-led Spandau Ballet and Jon (Mole) Baker’s Axiom design collective who played a gig and staged a runway fashion show to introduce Manhattan to the new stars of Swinging London.

By then Henry had become New York’s first Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, appointed by the mayor Ed Koch. I visited his office at Columbus Circle and he played along when I suggested taking a souvenir snap so that my portrait of him cunningly captures him four times over: Henry in life reclining on his chaise, holding the Penn portrait, in the glass of which we see reflected the Warhol lithograph of him from 1979. Behind on an easel stands a further 1973 head-and-shoulders by Hockney (savagely cropped to maximise impact in this post).

Henry, who died in 1994, was described as the world’s “most powerful and controversial art curator”. He must also have been one of the most painted and photographed curators ever. “There are lots of pictures of Henry,” said Hockney. “He didn’t have many mirrors in his home. He knew what he looked like just by asking people to make portraits of him.”

David Hockney, Henry Geldzahler, Christopher Scott, art, painting,

Masterpiece of pictorial drama (detail): the central subject in Hockney’s painting of Geldzahler and Scott stares back, evaluating the painter’s every move. (My photo)

➢ Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott is Lot 8 in the sale An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection at Christie’s London, 6 March 2019, from 7pm. Update: the painting went in three minutes flat for £33million.

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➤ Thanks, Steve, for my invitation to the Swinging 80s

Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Observer Music Magazine, Derek Ridgers,Spandau Ballet, Steve Dagger, Steve Strange, Tipping points,London, Media, Politics, Pop music, Swinging 80s,,

The Observer Music Magazine, Oct 4, 2009. Pictures © by Derek Ridgers

MARKING THE FOURTH ANNIVERSARY
OF STEVE STRANGE’S DEATH

WHEN MY PHONE RANG IN JANUARY 1980, little did I realise its message meant: “Put out the cat. You’re coming to the party of your life.” The voice on the other end spoke without pausing: “My name’s Steve Strange and I run a club called the Blitz on Tuesdays and I’m starting a cabaret night on Thursdays with a really great new band…. they combine synthesised dance music for the future with vocals akin to Sinatra, they’re called Spandau Ballet and they’re going to be really big. . .”

➢ Click through to continue reading Yours Truly’s eye-witness account of Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer Music Magazine

➢ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s:
The Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s draws a selective
timeline for the break-out year of 1980

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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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