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
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.
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!!!
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
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✱ 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
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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