What: Spandau Ballet
Where: O2, London
When: 20th October
Reformation is the title of an early Spandau Ballet song and seems to be the “in thing” these days. A couple of weeks ago I was at the opening night of Skunk Anansie’s reforming tour, now it’s the opening London night of the much softer and more accessible Spandau Ballet.
With Skunk Anansie there was a near ten year gap since they broke up, this time it’s nearer twenty years! In many respects you have to ask yourself why? My impressions from the Skunk Anansie gig was that there was more to come in the way of new music. My impression last night was more of a desire to relive glory days.
I’m not sure how much money was dangled in front of the band to get this reunion together, however I suspect it may have been significant as after they split in 1990 three of the band sued another member and accredited song writer Gary Kemp for a share of the publishing royalties.
Whilst there were warm words on the night between lead singer Tony Hadley and Gary Kemp I’m not sure how far you’d have to scratch the surface to expose the rawness that is probably lying beneath.
Gary and brother Martin had successful acting careers since the split. Both starred in the movie “The Krays” portraying the East end gangsters. Martin went on to become very popular playing Steve Owen in the BBC soap Eastenders. Hadley on the other hand stuck to music performing solo and with other 80s artists such as ABC and Paul Young. In 2003 Hadley won the ITV reality TV show “Reborn in the USA” before going on to star in the West End musical production of Chicago.
The crowd tonight had missed Spandau in the past twenty years and were certainly eager to see them perform again. They didn’t leave disappointed. Hit after hit was trotted out and brought back memories of school discos and awful New Romantic fashion. Luckily Spandau didn’t try to recreate the look of the day and were sensible enough to realise that approaching fifty a more sober approach was needed. Tony Hadley looked more like a Sinatra Crooner in his lounge suit whilst Martin Kemp showed a more rock ‘n roll edge for the encore with a leather waistcoat exposing the large tattoo on his arm.
Spandau always crafted great pop songs and they definitely showed that the can perform them well. Tony Hadley is a great singer I’m not really sure why his solo career never really took off post-Spandau. Looking at the band tonight it felt more like Tony Hadley with a bunch of musicians rather than an entity that is a band. The exception to this was Tony and drummer John Keeble. Hadley and Keeble have performed regularly together since the Spandau split and it shows. The stage set was very basic and the lighting efficient but never really adding enough mood or feel to the overall effect. The sound was well balanced although suffered with the usual O2 venue echo. I enjoyed being taken back to the 80s. It reminded me that not all of the music produced in that era lacked depth and emotion.
Spandau must take the award for having the largest amount of greatest hits and collections albums of any modern band. I don’t have enough fingers to count them all since 1985. Their latest “Once more” though does try and approach the subject from a different angle. Here we move from reformation to reworking. Having listened to preview tracks from the album I almost changed my initial thoughts about the bands reasons to reform. I think the reworkings stand very well alongside the originals and certainly give something to make me want to listen once again to tracks that might otherwise have felt tired and overplayed.
It was a shame then that for last night’s live show they didn’t take the opportunity to bring some of these new versions to their fans. It would have been an ideal opportunity to promote the album and at the same time let us see that there was something going on with Spandau that wasn’t just a procession of same old same old.