wed 17/08/2022

Spandau Ballet, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Spandau Ballet, O2 Arena

Spandau Ballet, O2 Arena

New Romantics bigger than ever? True, unbelievably

The success of Spandau Ballet's ecstatically received reunion lies in no small part in its impeccable timing. The band could hardly have chosen a better moment to re-form and revisit their well stocked catalogue of 1980s hits. Not only are their original fans now stuck firmly into middle age and feeling the usual nostalgia for the soundtrack of their youth, but a younger generation of listeners has at last decided that Eighties pop is cool.

spandau-balletLaRoux, Florence and the Machine  and Friendly Fires are just three of today's hot acts who derive their musical influences and fashion cues from bands like Spandau Ballet. While last night's audience at the O2 Arena was predictably weighted towards the oldies - all of whom dress much more sensibly these days, you noticed, with not a frilly shirt, kilt or pirate's hat in sight - there was a significant contingent of heavily made-up, strangely coiffeured teens who clearly still feel the call of the New  Romantics.

They had come to the right place to pay their respects. No band summed up the musical preoccupations of the 1980s more completely than Spandau Ballet. Like the Beatles, who defined the 1960s and then promptly split, Spandau wisely declined not to outstay their welcome by plodding on into the 1990s. They knew their place, and their decade, and will always remain umbilically attached, in the public's mind, to its music.

From the sinuous synth pop riff that drove the opening number, "To Cut A Long Story Short", to the riotous pop funk chant of "Gold", which ended the show nearly two hours later, they covered all of the stylistic bases of Eighties pop. If the first half tended to overplay the electronic keyboards, well, so did Prince among others back in the day. The second half, with its preponderance of white funky items such as "Chant Number One" and "Instinction", moved at a livelier pace and had the crowd on its feet, welcoming home a North London band who hadn't performed here for over 20 years.

The Spandau songs that have aged best turned out to be their ballads. The turning point in the concert came at the halfway mark with the little-known "Round and Round", a sentimental tune which was accompanied by a lot of old home video footage which featured the boys, as Spandau mostly were in the Eighties, splashing about in swimming pools and posing on the tour bus.

It felt strangely innocent and moving, though not as emotionally charged as the song that followed, "Through The Barricades", a stadium anthem performed mainly as a duet by Tony Hadley and Gary Kemp, which served a reminder that the band's chief songwriter Kemp was a rock classicist at heart rather than a dedicated follower of pop fashion.

The other revelation contained in this 10-minute epic was the vast improvement in the vocal performance of Tony  Hadley – "the big man", as his bandmates kept calling him. Whether it's an effect of his solo career or just the mellowing of age, Hadley has, along with a bulkier figure, acquired the sort of class and confidence you associate with the likes of Tom Jones. He's a  serious crooner these days and he brought the house down with his magisterial rendition of Spandau's biggest hit, "True", the song which teed up the encores and which seemed to strike a chord with the many couples in the audience, who evidently knew all the words off by heart.

The sense that the band were enjoying themselves more last night perhaps than they did in their heyday was palpable. From Steve Norman's manic wailing on the sax to John Keeble's ferocious battering of his drum kit, Spandau Ballet played with tremendous élan throughout and felt like a group reborn rather than cynically reconfigured for a greatest hits payday.

It is early days yet - they have a tour of the world to finish next year - but this reunion feels as if it could run and run. With three dates sold out at the O2 alone, it's a solid fact that demand for Spandau Ballet has never been higher.

Spandau Ballet play O2 Arena, London 21-22 October; LG Arena, Birmingham, 24-25 October; Newcastle Arena, 26 October; MEN Arena, Manchester,  26 October. Spandau Ballet store on Amazon

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Comments

Good reveiw - I was at the gig and I think you summed it up very well. I loved it! Don't like to nit pick, but it's "Through the Barricades" !!

Can I just say I think Spandau are the most egregiously fake band on the entire planet.....

I took all the Way from Germany to See them in birmingham and it was Gold. Even my younger girlfriend did like what She heard there. It was extraordinaire. Go in

New Romanticism was an attempt to recreate Cabaret at London’s Blitz Club; all those girls with monocles and Eton crops, and Steve Strange attempting to be the Joel Gray, Maitre D’ figure. In fact, New Romanticism took Cabaret, took punk rock, took Glam rock and mixed them all together in the name of decadence. Unfortunately, it came up with Spandau Ballet. Wasn’t that a shame? A quote from Philip Hoare, who wrote a book on Stephen Tennant, the brightest of the 20s Bright Young Things

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