Tag Archives: Soul Boys of the Western World

Spandau Ballet Wiltern Theatre

I went to see Spandau Ballet at the Wiltern Theatre in LA last night. Yes, I realize this is the Daily Duranie and maybe one of the last things many of you want to read is a review on another band’s live performance.  You should probably look away….but not you, Duran Duran. No, you four…FIVE (!)…should probably read on. (I am never giving in on Dom being a member, by the way. Suck it up.)

The reason I’m writing a show review about Spandau Ballet, is because for many DD fans, the supposed rivalry between SB and DD never existed. I hadn’t heard of it until I saw a YouTube video of Spandau vs. Duran on Pop Quiz.  (Check them out if you haven’t seen them – they’re funny!!) I just loved both bands for very different reasons. My love for Spandau Ballet did not; however, begin with “True” – as it did for many other American fans. I had heard their music well before that – for me, the very essence of Spandau Ballet is “To Cut a Long Story Short”,  or “Instinction” or better yet, “Confused”.  When I listen to those songs even today – the bridge between Spandau and Duran feels solid and I can see why I love both bands.  So to me, writing about other bands that were very much a part of that time period feels natural…and damn it, if Duran Duran isn’t gonna give me anything to write about, someone else will!

When I got to the Wiltern last night just after 7pm, I was dismayed to see that the line stretched all the way around the building and down the block. This wasn’t a GA show, it was completely seated, and the only reason for the line was a lack in security people to check bags. Ridiculous, but thankfully the line moved fairly quickly. Once in the venue though, we made our way up to our loge seats. I chose loge rather than floor because while I’m sure it would have been great to be up front, I really wanted to hear the full mix of the show. I will openly admit that for me, the experience of seeing Duran Duran live has everything to do with the rush of being near the front…but for Spandau Ballet, and knowing that I probably would not have the opportunity to see them live again (hey, it’s been 30 years since they’ve toured here), I wanted to HEAR the music without my brain playing tricks on me because I was in front of Martin Kemp or seeing Steve Norman play sax in front of me. Just saying.  (Still love you, Duran Duran, but seriously – it’s been a long time!)

Our seats were fantastic with a great view of the full stage, and bonus: the Wiltern takes drink orders from your seat! We settled in, watched Richard Blade give away tickets to see Rio and a couple of other far less interesting events (yes, I really mean that – unless you’re into Morrissey, which I am not.), and waited for the show.

The band opened with Soul Boy – a new song off of their The Story, and from the opening notes it was really clear that this was not going to be an ordinary concert for me. I won’t lie or pretend I never notice backing tracks with other artists. I am very clear that for many bands today – they must have them because they record with so many tracks for each instrument, it’s impossible to replicate live. That said, I have to give Spandau credit: they are the real deal. They PLAY…and any backing used is incredibly minimal compared to many other bands. Tony Hadley has a better voice live than nearly any vocalist I’ve ever heard, and I’m sure the Jack he used for toasting the audience does nothing to hurt him, either.  I can’t really say enough about Tony’s vocal talent OR the rest of the band. Steve Norman is a sax GOD, not to mention a world-class percussionist, of course Gary and Martin Kemp are the backbone of the band along with John Keeble on drums.  After sorting through a lot of misinformation, I’m editing this blog to update that the keyboardist’s name on this tour is Toby Chapman, and he did a fantastic job last night as well.  While in my opinion Spandau comes on stage with a lot less “flash” than say…Duran Duran…they more than make up for it with incredibly solid performance, and I still can’t get over Tony Hadley’s voice. He is amazing.

My moment of the night was hearing “To Cut a Long Story Short” – which is my favorite Spandau song. I marveled at how I was standing there, at a Spandau Ballet concert – something I just never, EVER thought I would do. I had many of the same feelings surging through my veins as I did when I saw Duran Duran – The “Original” Fab Five – at the OC Fair back in 2003. I couldn’t quite make my eyes believe what my ears were hearing. I am kicking myself this morning for not taking video, but in a lot of ways I’m glad I didn’t. I took the moment for myself and soaked it in, feeling that concert rush course through my system. I’d forgotten what it was like.

This review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t make some commentary on the Spandau Ballet fans – many of which had been waiting thirty years to see this band. I loved being up in the balcony because I was able to see the reaction from fans – diehard Spandau Ballet fans – as they heard songs that they probably never thought they’d see done live. There was something really heartwarming as I watched fans scream with glee as Tony broke into Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) or the way the entire audience sang “True” with the band. There were so many special moments about the show I can’t even begin to name them all…and that’s just during the show.  As we waited in line outside that night, I halfway listened as the people in back of us talked about the trek they were making to follow the band on their tour across the country, and how they talked about members of the band as though they were old friends. It reminded me so much of the “relationship” Duran fans have with the band. As much as we might be different – Spandau fans and Duran fans – we’re really the same. (and quite honestly, there were quite a few Spandau fans that I recognized from Duran shows over the years!)

As I sit here, trying to formulate sentences to describe my experience, the one feeling I really want to convey is just how much the Spandau Ballet show reminded me of what I love most about going to concerts. I think I’d forgotten that concert rush – that concert high, a high I caught even while sitting in loge seats rather than in the first few rows down front.  I had forgotten just how much I love seeing bands live and fully immersing myself into the music. Hearing every single note from a sax solo. Feeling the bass drum beat, clapping my hands in rhythm and singing as loud as my voice can manage. Squealing in joy as the band plays another song through to perfection, and yes – even watching the band acknowledge fans who have loved them for thirty years. How can I honestly say I would be OK to never feel any of that again?

I can’t.

-R

Spandau Ballet US tour : Too Much Mis-information?

This is dedicated to any fan who has ever had the frustration of not knowing what is really going on…or that the “official” website is always the last to make a statement on rumor…etc.  (Basically, this means you.)

I have a fondness for 80s “alternative” bands. Unlike many Duran fans – I was blissfully ignorant of the apparent “rampant” discord between DD and Spandau Ballet. I liked both bands. Granted, Duran Duran came first in my heart and always will, but I did like Spandau. I owned more than one Spandau record, and would have loved seeing them live. When they announced a tour here in the states – I jumped at my chance for tickets and waited my four months (or however long it’s been!) for the Spandau Ballet US tour time to arrive.

Over the weekend however, it seemed as though I might miss my chance for the Spandau Ballet US tour after all. Timing is everything, and Spandau has struggled to release their movie documentary, Soul Boys of the Western World in a timely manner with their tour. As a result, some of their tour dates have been rescheduled, and for a while, it appeared that the Los Angeles and San Francisco dates were going on the chopping block altogether, as in completely canceled without a chance to reschedule the dates.

Interestingly enough, it was NOT the official Spandau website that broke the news (do I hear a collective gasp?!?), but instead a few “fan-managed” websites that grasped hold of what appeared to be a press release written by their concert promoter.  Not the band. (again, I should hear gasping)  Not only was the news not really official…or unofficial…but it was not concisely written or easily understood. Instead of explaining the situation at hand, the news was simply that the Spandau Ballet US tour dates that could be rescheduled were listed below, and that the first three dates: LA and SF dates, couldn’t be rescheduled. So were they canceled with refunds available at the point of purchase? Some sites assumed that yes, they were. Others said otherwise, and Spandau’s site?  Still not updated.  (Let’s have a slow clap for the band’s website, shall we?)

I went to bed whatever night that was figuring that I probably didn’t have a show to attend and that I’d just get a refund. As sad as this news was for me, on the scale of I’m-going-to-miss-a show up to I’ve-just-traveled-5,437-miles-to-London-only-to-have-the-band-cancel-every-show-I-have-tickets-to-attend…I felt as though I might live. If nothing else, at least Duran Duran was not going to be the only band to ever cancel on me now. I went to bed that night thinking of how I might spend my refund money. (I wish I were joking…)

That next morning though, the news was much different. Turns out that no, LA and SF dates for the Spandau Ballet US tour were still on. Where did I get that news? No, not from Spandauballet.com as you might expect, at least not right away. Nope. I got the news from Richard Blade, thankyouverymuch.  He talked to the band, got the scoop, and shared it with a good many anxious fans who were far more confused and/or angrier than I was at the time. It wasn’t until that afternoon my time that I finally began to see links to the band’s website, which posted an official statement about the Spandau Ballet US tour that makes everything completely clear….as mud…to all fans about what was really happening. What became obvious to me is that the band’s website used the same press release as what must have gone out on the wires prior, and whomever is responsible for that press release should go back to school. I don’t know why it was so difficult to clearly say that the Los Angeles and San Francisco dates were staying exactly as is, that they would not be changing…but that didn’t happen until later, after continued fan uproar… when someone from the band’s management decided to post on Facebook and Twitter to “clarify” that those dates were unaffected.

What interested me most about the entire exercise was how angry  fans were about the lack of information on the band’s website, as well as the misinformation going out about the Spandau Ballet US tour dates. We Duran fans have a nasty habit of assuming that we have it so much worse than any other fan community out there: we don’t get information in a timely manner, we hear the rumors and leaks well-before the band ever decides to respond (if ever), and when things really go wrong – like an entire tour gets canceled, or a band members decides to leave the band, it feels like light years go by before the band figures out what to say as vaguely as possible to make things as clear as…you guessed it…mud! It turns out though, we’re not alone. I would venture to guess that if you asked other fan communities, you’d hear very similar complaints.

I have to wonder…are fans just impossible to please? Far too crafty and investigative for our own good? Entirely too judgmental?? All of the above?

Absolutely.

-R