This review is by Guest Blogger Lily C Vargas
Date: May 2nd 2015
Venue: Beacon Theater (New York City)
For two hours on May 2, 2015 we were transported back to the Blitz Club circa 1978 and taken on a musical journey that took 32 years to make its way back to New York. The best word to describe how so many of the fans felt was the word “giddy”.
I arrived at the Beacon a few hours early to have dinner before the show. There were already a few concert goers milling around and I saw people near the venue in black t-shirts with Spandau ballet written in gold across their chest. I knew it was going to be a great show if so many fans were already dressed and ready to see the show.
There was a section that appeared to be the meet and greet area. A few people were waiting to the left of the box office and were escorted in around 5pm, Lucky for them!
By the time I had come back from dinner, the front of the Beacon Theater was full of activity and the lobby was packed. Tons of fans were taking pictures outside in front of the marquee displaying, Spandau Ballet Tonight. We found our seats in the orchestra area and sat down and listened to some 80s music being played over the PA. There was an energy and buzz in the air as people settled in. From hearing all the different accents and languages, Spandau has a truly international following but then again its NY what else would you expect. A guy in a gold jacket stands up and the fans cheer for him. You know it’s a good audience when your fellow concert goers like your outfit selection.
Around 8pm, Steve Dagger (Spandau Ballet’s manager) took a walk around the section in the orchestra where I was seated. I saw him survey the crowd and was doing a visual check to maybe see if the show should start shortly. Being professional with no opening act, the Boys didn’t keep the audience waiting. From the first chords of “Soul Boys of the Western World”, and maybe even before, the audience were already happily anticipating and up on their feet. Once the lights illuminated the stage and we were greeted by Tony Hadley, ever dapper in his blue suit center stage, the crowd erupted in cheers. The staging was simple with lights that changed the curtains colors hanging behind the band. Martin Kemp was at the left end of the stage with Toby Chapman on keyboards on a raised platform behind him. Martin is ever so cool with his black shirt opened enough to make the ladies swoon. John Keeble was in his usual “Rock God” position, sitting on his throne behind Tony. Gary Kemp was on the opposite side of his brother but throughout the night, the boys walked back and forth and Gary and Martin had moments in the concert where they played side by side. Steve Norman’s percussion setup was on a platform behind Gary but showing why he’s the hardest working member of the band, you got to see him there and all over the rest of the stage playing his sax and also the guitar during the show. He was nonstop jumping from his percussion to the sax to playing guitar during the Blitz club portion of the show.
After the band opened the show with the song “Soul Boys of the Western World”, they played “Highly Strung”. The crowd was screaming at every note that came out of Tony’s mouth. Tony says “bloody 32 years” acknowledging how long it took them to return to New York before launching into “Only When You Leave”. Martin and Gary were playing side by side. Steve was wailing on his sax. I think I stopped screaming long enough to remember to breathe. During the song Tony was flanked by Steve, Gary and Martin who are all center stage with him. Photo op, not that the cell phones and cameras were ever put away. Before the fourth song of the evening “How Many Lies”, there are screams of Tony, Tony!
There’s nothing that Tony can do that doesn’t send shrieks through the crowd. Waving at the balcony elicited a frenzy of shouts. Tony worked the stage with his charismatic presence and is a seasoned showman. His acknowledgment of the fans feels like a giant hug. His voice and presence enveloped the theater. Heavy sign, okay back to writing this, see what I mean about Tony’s presence.
For those who may have sat down during “How Many Lies”, they’re back on their feet for ”Round and Round”.
Tony says “Hello and good to see you”. In the 32 years that it took the band to come to New York, Tony acknowledges what a beautiful theater the Beacon is and that they never played here before. He gave a shout out to the new movie “Soul Boys of the Western World”. He acknowledged the absence would be due to the twenty years that they were not together. He introduced the new tracks, “This is the Love” and “Steal” on the current album (yes that’s how I refer to the new music, even if it’s not vinyl) produced by Trevor Horn. Lucky for us, “Steal” is getting US airplay.
So maybe some people sit down during “Steal” but we’re all up and moving our feet again during the next song, “Chant No. 1 (I Don’t’ Need This Pressure On)”. Gary’s rapping; Tony was up in Steve’s area playing percussion, while Steve is center stage playing his sax.
The next group of songs is dedicated to Steve Strange, who had contributed to the band’s early success back in the late 1970s. They did him proud with a medley of “Reformation”, “Mandolin”, “Confused” and “Freeze”. Steve is playing guitar which was his original instrument when he started with the band. He didn’t add the sax until later in the band’s career. “To Cut a Long Story Short” is followed by screams for Martin when he gets to showcase his bass playing talent, although all the women knew that it doesn’t matter what Martin does, he can just stand there and every woman and some men would scream for him. Not to take anything away from his musical talent.
Just saying. I’m glad I had not “lost my mind” during this part of the concert. Tony says he’s hot and sweaty. Remember to breathe!
During “Raw” and “Glow”, Steve is back on sax and percussion. The highlight of the acoustic version of “Glow” was the duel between John on drums and Steve on Percussion. Martin and Toby are on stage but Gary and Tony have stepped away during this acoustic duel which showcases Spandau Ballet as a legit live band.
Giving those guys a break, Tony and Gary returned to the stage with a blue background and Gary is carrying a double neck guitar. They did an acoustic rendition of “Empty Spaces” which demonstrated just how rich and beautiful Tony’s voice is. Tony teased the crowd with a short acoustic version of “Gold” and slyly said more of that to follow.
Gary indicated that the next song pretty much summed up their situation five years ago when they came back together. During “Once More”, Steve started on guitar and during the song switched to the Sax. Steve Norman is credited with co-writing the song with Gary Kemp.
Steve has a sax solo during the beginning of “I’ll Fly for You”. Gary has a guitar solo at the end of the song and the two men hug at the end. Awwww moment! Tony had snuck off for some of his “medicine”. He returned to toast the crowd with his Jack to “good health, good wealth”.
Tony introduced the band starting with Toby Chapman on keyboards. Followed by Martin Kemp on Bass and open neck black shirt, his brother, Gary Kemp on guitar and song writer extraordinaire, Steve Norman man of all instruments and just so darn adorable, and John Keeble, who stood on his drum kit and struck a pose. Finally Stevie Norman introduced Tony Hadley. There were references to Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra (who Tony Hadley is a great fan of) but I’ll take Tony Hadley any day.
The audience was back on their feet dancing along to the next three songs. “Instinction”, “Communication” and “Lifeline”. The audience is singing “woo hoo hoo” along with Lifeline. Now that everyone is warmed up, just a few notes of “True” is played and the audience is screaming. For many this is the song that introduced them to Spandau Ballet. For those lucky enough, they discovered the entire catalog of music from this amazingly talented group and scratch their collective heads when people think Spandau is a one hit wonder.
For the encore, Tony and Gary started with an acoustic version of “Through the Barricades” followed mid-way by Steve and then the rest of the band as the lights go up showing the full band on stage. For the final song of the evening, John Keeble changed into a red t-shirt and Tony leads the audience in singing “Gold”.
The band took a final bow and the feeling was that the Soul Boys were all in a good place, embracing and acknowledging the love that was being showered on them. As Tony says goodnight and wishes the crowd, “Good health, Good wealth”, I think that’s exactly what the fans wished them as well.
In case you did not pick up on this earlier, the blog you are reading is affiliated with Radio Creme Brulee – an online radio station that features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of Spandau Ballet (both old and new) is a regular staple on our station. Alongside newer artists, we also play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s and 90s. Noteworthy examples include Simply Red, Wet Wet Wet, Tears For Fears, Suede, The Corrs, Dubstar, Duran Duran, Camouflage, Spandau Ballet, INXS, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, Johnny Hates Jazz, George Michael, and Culture Club.
Give us a spin when you get a chance.
We just might become your alternative of choice!