Spandau Ballet, The O2, Dublin
Thursday 15 October 2009
In the drab Britain of 30 years ago, Spandau Ballet stuck out like a sore thumb and kick-started the 1980s with appearances at non-rock venues which were as much fashion shows as harbingers of the pop music of the future. Images and memories of being mobbed with the band in Edinburgh in 1982 flashed through my mind, as they do on the film montage which introduces their first gig in two decades. The audience tonight is at least 70 per cent female, though the merchandisers also cleverly target the thirtysomething couples with romper suits adorned with Spandau motifs. It's all a far cry from the heady days of the Blitz, the Soho venue where it all began for the group who put the style back into pop. Fittingly, they start with the synth-driven "To Cut A Long Story Short" and the irresistible walking bass line of "The Freeze", their first two singles, even if they don't revert to their kilt and frilly-shirt selves of 1980.
The front four members stand close together in a show of unity as if to recreate the gang vibe of their early days and show that the court case which singer Tony Hadley unsuccessfully brought against songwrinter Gary Kemp in 1999 has been forgotten. Unfortunately, the goodwill evaporates as they switch mood and play a sequence of middling MOR songs from 1984's Parade album .
"She Loved Like Diamond" has been reworked into a new arrangement for their latest album, called Once More after one of the two new compositions it contains. "Once More" is a big power ballad which strings together far too many lyrical clichés of the "sky/try" variety.
Spandau finally hit their stride with a series of dance-floor fillers, starting with "Instinction", with the backing vocalist Dawn Joseph battling Hadley – a shivers-down-the-spine moment. The segue into the equally infectious "Communication" and "Lifeline" is particularly inspired, though "Chant No 1" and "Paint Me Down" are not quite as funky as their progenitors would like to think.
Inevitably, they end with "True", the blue-eyed soul ballad which topped charts around the world in 1983. In a year which has already seen amazing comebacks like those of Magazine and Mott the Hoople, Spandau Ballet are not quite the style icons of yore, but provide a much more entertaining night out than their former rivals Duran Duran did with their short-lived reunion a few years ago.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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