First, I have to admit something here: until a few months ago, the only Spandau Ballet song I knew was the ballad “True.” It was released in 1983, which happened to be the year that I discovered heavy metal, so I probably thought it was garbage. At some point, though, it began to make me wax nostalgic whenever I’d hear it on the radio, and that wasn’t a bad thing. Additionally, I grew to appreciate a much, much wider variety of music as time went on, so there came a point when I realized that “True” was, in fact, truly brilliant. But I’m a new music junkie, always on the prowl for the next best thing. So, I never bothered to investigate Spandau Ballet and discover what their other music was like. But a few months ago I heard from the publicist and was given a download of their recent hits collection, The Story – The Very Best Of Spandau Ballet. Listening to it was quite a trip. The songs sounded like British New Wave, which is exactly what they are, and they reminded me of the one non-metal band from the era that I loved, Duran Duran. And so there was an air of nostalgia breezing through my brain as I listened to their songs. Yet I was hearing them for the first time, so they also felt new. It was an experience similar to when I finally listened to all of Led Zeppelin’s albums at some point in the late ’80’s. I knew the music was old, and I couldn’t help but notice that, but it was still new and exciting to me. And I felt euphoric as I listened to The Story. By the time I played it for the third time, the songs stopped giving me an ’80’s vibe, no longer sounding out-dated. Instead, I felt as though I’d just discovered a stellar album by a hot new band. I couldn’t wait to see them in concert. But then the concert was postponed, the band deciding it was in their best interest to tour in the spring when a new documentary about the band — Soul Boys of the Western World — would be released. Oh well, better late than never, I thought, and I continued listening to The Story, my brain memorizing the lyrics. I came to be thankful the show was postponed; now I’d be able to sing-along.
The show went on, as they say, Friday night, April 30th, 2015, at the House of Blues in Boston. And sing I did.
The band hit the stage at 9:30, firing on all cylinders as they delivered an exciting rendition of “Soul Boy,” one of the three fantastic new songs that close out The Story collection. They couldn’t possibly have had more energy. (Red Bull ought to be sponsoring the tour.) I’ve seen plenty of bands half their age play only half as hard, no kidding. You’d swear they were on a lot of cocaine, though that’s likely a habit they grew out of decades ago. And they were clearly having a blast, far from being a band reluctantly reunited to make a few bucks on tour. They looked like they were having so much fun that they would pay the audience to see them and not vice versa.
Another thing you had to notice: these were sharp-dressed men, their suits quite posh. But they weren’t waxing nostalgic there: the clothes were entirely 2015, tres chic. The only casually dressed member was drummer John Keeble, rocking a t-shirt, but it would be impossible to kill the drums throughout the two hour set they delivered in a suit, so naturally he gets a pass. Speaking of passes, I had a photo pass to take the photos accompanying this review. You’re only allowed to take photos during the first three songs with one of those — it’s this way with every artist in the world, really — but I didn’t mind that at all. I wanted to be done taking photos as quickly as possible, so I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping my hands still and could instead clap and sing-along. In fact, the only less than perfect thing about my night was that the second song they performed was “Highly Strung,” one of my favorites, and I was too busy taking photos to sing.
It must be said that vocalist Tony Hadley can still hit all of the high notes. In fact, he carried some notes to greater heights than on the original album versions of the songs. There was one particular note where his voice soared so high it must have pierced the heavens. I was so impressed that I forgot what song they were doing, which is probably why I can’t remember it as I write this.
Everyone in the band sounded exquisite as they delivered wonderful renditions of songs like “Only When You Leave,” “To Cut a Long Story Short” and “Lifeline.” Bassist Martin Kemp, still playing without a pick, was electrifying and his instrument was at just the right level in the perfect sound mix, plenty audible but not competing with his brother Gary Kemp’s sharp guitar playing. But I was most impressed by Steve Norman, who played the hell out the saxophone. The guy could step right into one of the world’s best jazz bands if he ever gets bored with playing pop. And during the songs that didn’t have sax he either played guitar or pounded the bongos. I should also mentioned that Gary Kemp played the moog synthesizer during the rousing medley: “Reformation / Mandolin / Confused / Freeze.”
If your favorite Spandau track was “Gold,” you were in for a real treat. Halfway through the set Tony and Gary performed the hit acoustically, letting the audience sing much of it, and everyone knew the words. But fans who wanted to hear the full band version of the song only had to wait for the final song of the encore. And then everyone left the building feeling gleeful.
NOTE: None of these photos were cropped or edited in any way. They were re-sized to fit our site, that’s all. All images copyright Michael McCarthy 2015 and may not be reproduced without permission.