For the few who have asked; Spandau Ballet’s concert at Sandalford Winery on the weekend was outstanding.
(Yes, this WAS also going to be a Tears For Fears review, but circumstances conspired against us. ‘Shout’ was great ‘drive up’ music, but was the last of the Fears’ set. Sadface.)
Unfortunately, many Australian dates will lack the outdoor setting for this ‘Reformation’ tour, which only added to the party atmosphere in Perth. Thank your chosen deity for perfect weather, an enthusiastic crowd and an organiser who knew how to get them from place to place*.
Opening with a brief retrospective video, Gary, Martin, Tony, Steve and John were back into the groove like they hadn’t left the stage for 20-odd years.
Each track (and mix) was album-perfect, amped up just the right amount to give them a new sheen. None of it is broken – they didn’t try to fix it. Ahead of the concert, I was worried that they would return to the overweening private-school earnestness that marked some of their earlier recordings, but for the most part, they got on with the job of delivering sugar-free 80s, mercifully filtered through the wisdom of years. They are putting rockers half their age to shame. Tony’s voice never wavered, and sounds better than ever.**
The setlist is available – heavy on the big hits and one new track to sell, ‘Once More’, the title of the 2009 album of the same name. Standouts for me were ‘Instinction’ and ‘Always In The Back Of My Mind’, both getting more than a breath of new life (and leaving me disappointed with the current recordings…). ‘With The Pride’ was stripped back to guitar and voice – beautiful. ‘Through the Barricades’ lifted the roof of the venue (or would have/will do). There was also a walk down memory lane of all home-video footage, which prompted more reverie about hairstyles and fashion than music.
The new album contains a few laid back re-imaginings, and is worth tracking down, if only for ‘With The Pride’ and the new single.
Judging by the comments and publicity around this tour, it seems like this really is ‘Once More’ – a reunion/farewell concert. Although the team makes a point to show what great friends they are now, there was no mention of the new album which is due this year, or any more new material. This concert rests on laurels, and doesn’t raise any new standards.
If, as I suspect, this is the last chance to catch them, I’d go for it. They put on an awesome show.
P.S. A different review of the same show posted on the official site is a curmudgeonly tale indeed.
* Brickbats for ‘Advanced Traffic Management’ who delivered only 1 of the three promises in their name while presiding over near-criminal levels of post-event gridlock. Sack ’em, Sandalford. Even their website is a shambles.
** Once you get past Tony’s resemblance to KD Lang these days.